Every time Lance Lynn struggled during his first year in the St. Louis Cardinals' rotation, the right-hander insisted it had nothing to do with arm fatigue.
The 25-year-old Lynn gave up four runs on five hits in 3 2-3 innings in the opener of the NL championship series, squandering most of a six-run cushion — although the bullpen shut out the Giants the rest of the way. He stayed on his regular routine, throwing a bullpen session, in preparation for his Game 5 start against lefty Barry Zito on Friday night.
"I'm as strong as I've ever been all year, and the playoff start was good to get," Lynn said Thursday. "Wish I could have done better the first one, but I've got a lot to learn from that one."
Lynn said what he needs to do better is easy: "not give up four straight two-out hits in one inning."
Lynn earned the victory in relief in Game 2 of the division series against Washington, and one more win would give him 20 for the year. He was added to the rotation when Chris Carpenter was sidelined by a shoulder injury in spring training and made the NL All-Star team, finishing at 18-7 with a 3.78 ERA.
Lynn didn't sulk after getting demoted to the bullpen in late August and returned to win four straight starts to close out the regular season.
"You have a season like that when you're only 24, 25, it gives you a lot to look forward to," Lynn said. "The luxury I have is I have a Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright that will not let me not work hard to keep getting better and keep improving."
BUILDING BLOCK: Not long ago, the Detroit Tigers had one of the worst teams in baseball history and couldn't give free agents enough money to sign.
Ivan Rodriguez changed that in 2004 by accepting a $40 million, four-year deal for a franchise coming off an AL-record, 119-loss season.
Suddenly, being on the Tigers didn't seem so bad. Magglio Ordonez and others followed and, with owner Mike Ilitch's money and general manager Dave Dombrowski's moves, Detroit is in the postseason for the second straight year and the third time since advancing to the 2006 World Series.
"Everybody is telling me, 'Why you came to the club?'" Rodriguez recalled Thursday before throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 4. "And the reason I came here is because I saw the talent. When I came here, they just tried to rebuild the team and bring in some new faces, new team, new players, and that's what they did."
"(Dombrowski) told me that he's going to put a winning team together. And basically that's what he did."
EMOTIONAL LEADER: Hunter Pence took the blame for the San Francisco Giants' offensive woes in Game 3 after stranding six runners, saying "I'm the goat."
Manager Bruce Bochy took some of the heat off by moving him down a slot to sixth for Game 4, and by spreading the blame.
Pence, who had 45 RBIs in 59 games after joining the Giants in a trade deadline deal with Philadelphia, was 1 for 11 with a single the first three games of the NLCS. He entered Game 3 batting .161 overall in the postseason with five singles and no RBIs but homered in the second inning.
"I don't want him to think he's got to do more than what he normally does, and that's try to carry us, try to do too much," Bochy said. "I just said 'We don't do this here.' We all could have done something maybe to help in that ballgame."
That includes the skipper.
"I looked at it myself and thought of things I could have done different to help us win," Bochy said. "But he took the full responsibility, which he shouldn't, because a lot of us had chances to do something that might have changed that game."
Backup catcher Hector Sanchez batted fifth in Game 4 with Buster Posey moving to first base.
STAN THE MAN: Cardinals fan gave a standing ovation before the game to the greatest Cardinal of them all — Stan the Man.
Stan Musial, 91 and battling early stages of Alzheimer's disease, waved to the crowd as he was driven around the warning track in a golf cart. He paused at the Giants dugout for a handshake from manager Bruce Bochy before stopping in front of the St. Louis dugout, where he shook hands with manager Mike Matheny.
Cardinals Hall of Famers such as Ozzie Smith, Bob Gibson and Lou Brock often appear in red jackets before postseason games.
Musial has long been part of that tradition but missed Game 3, prompting some concern about his health. But he appeared relatively robust during his brief appearance Thursday.