Well that game sucked. In terms of expected outcomes, this wasn’t on my mind, however when two rookie pitchers face off, pretty much any outcome is possible. This is especially true when you’re dealing with two top 100 prospects, which both Jack Flaherty and Tyler Mahle are. Sometimes, they’ll look like top 100 prospects but other times, they’ll look like prospects. Tonight, both looked like prospects, but Mahle didn’t give up any extra base hits and made sure to separate all his hits and walks evenly among the innings so the Cardinals would not score.
Flaherty started poorly. His first pitch was a ball and the second pitch was right down the middle for Jesse Winker to crush into the right field stands. I almost don’t blame him for this. Leadoff hitters, especially ones who walk as much as Winker does, usually take the first strike. But I’m sure Winker capitalized on that fact that this was a rookie and that he would probably do exactly that. He then allowed a lineout to Zack Cozart and walked Joey Votto on four pitches. Eugenio Suarez swung at the first pitch he saw and the Cards turned an easy double play.
If reading about the Cardinals offense is half as frustrating as watching it was, I suggest you stop reading now and just acknowledge that, yes, the Cardinals got blown out and the Cards scored no runs. It would honestly be better if the Cards just got dominated on offense, but they very much did not. Tommy Pham walked and Jose Martinez singled and both were stranded at the end of the inning. 2 LOB.
Flaherty recovered from the 1st inning and struck out both Scott Schebler and Adam Duvall. Here he looked like a top 100 prospect, blowing both hitters away. Jose Peraza singled, but Yadier Molina easily threw him out when he attempted to steal. In the bottom of the 2nd, Kolten Wong walked and Stephen Piscotty singled to make it first and second with nobody out. Harrison Bader moved Wong to 3rd. Flaherty tried to do a safety squeeze, but on 0-2, he bunted it foul and struck out. Matt Carpenter walked and then Pham weakly grounded out to second. 5 LOB
Flaherty had an easy 1-2-3 inning in the 3rd, including a strikeout of the pitcher. In the bottom of the inning, Martinez singled and Molina hit an infield single (which if you were feeling harsh, could have been called an error as it did touch Cozart’s glove.) Both Wong and Piscotty flew out to end the threat. 7 LOB.
In the 4th, Flaherty had a couple rookie moments. He allowed a leadoff single to Peraza, who filled in nicely for Billy Hamilton tonight in the “Cards can’t get out bad Reds hitter” category. Then he got Tucker Barnhart to bounce a ball back to him, but when he went to throw it to 2nd, he dropped it and was forced to get the out at 1st. Who knows how the game goes if he is able to turn the double play here because the pitcher was up next. With Mahle up on 2-2, he hit the pitcher. Not to say veteran pitchers have never made a defensive mistake or hit a pitcher, but I’m willing to chalk both of those things up to being a rookie. Any arguments?
Ryan Sheriff replaced him (hence why I used the plural version of rookie in my headline) and Matheny might be more hesitant to use him against righties now. Hopefully anyway. I’m not sure if Sheriff is good, but even the good version of him is just a LOOGY. Anyway, he got Winker to pop up for the second out. Then he got Cozart to hit a groundball. Paul DeJong made a diving stop but couldn’t get the ball out of his glove immediately and after a review, Mahle was safe at second. That brought up Votto of course, who hit an opposite field single. Only one run scored, but that brought up lefty masher Suarez. Nobody was warming up so Sheriff was stuck there. He allowed a grand slam and that was pretty much the end of the game.
After a 1-2-3 4th inning, Mahle hit Pham to lead off the 5th, but he was also stranded. At this point, the Cards offense was kind of done. Leaving seven men on base in the first three innings without scoring was extremely frustrating.
Anyway, John Gant replaced Sherriff for the 6th and pitched two of the best innings he’s thrown as a Cardinal, not that anybody was watching by this point (or if they were, they were probably mentally checked out of it). He allowed a leadoff single, and after two straight groundballs, he was out of his first inning of work. In his second inning of work, he struck out two batters.
Kevin Shackleford replaced Mahle in the 6th, and he too threw two strong innings for the Reds. Matt Carpenter hit a slow roller down the 3rd base line and that was the only runner for the Cards in either of his two innings of work. Sam Tuivailala threw 4 pitches to 3 batters in his scoreless outing. Cardinals made Michael Lorenzon work harder in the bottom half, but the result was the same. Matt Bowman threw six pitches to three batters in the top of the 9th for a 1-2-3 himself. In the 9th, Magneuris Sierra struck out pinch-hitting, Piscotty popped out, and Bader grounded out. The Cardinals went out meekly at the end.
- Flaherty line: 4.1 IP, 3 ER, 3 Ks, 2 BBs, 4 hits, HR, 33.3 GB% - When you leave runners on first and second with one out when you exit the game, you do expose yourself to more earned runs, but it does feel unlucky that both of his runners scored.
- Go look at Jose Berrios stats last year, who was both older than Flaherty is now and a better prospect, and you should be comforted that Flaherty has been pretty decent given age and experience thus far.
- Everyone besides DeJong and Bader got on base at least once, with Carpenter and Martinez getting on base twice. Feels like that usually produces a few runs, but zero extra base hits.
- Some of that is on Mahle of course, but he had the same 33.3% GB as Flaherty did so he was kind of lucky to not allow a homer with all those flyballs.
Tomorrow, the Cardinals go for the series win and they have a pretty good shot. Luke Weaver faces Amir Garrett, who despite a strong start, currently sports a 7.39 ERA. I realize it sucks to lose to the Reds, but sweeps aren’t common (if you aren’t the Indians) for a reason even when you’re facing bad teams. Just go for series wins the rest of the year and they have a good shot at the playoffs.