One of the things my dad says that has stuck with me - and it’s far from an original thought - is that the Cardinals just need to focus on winning series. He said it again after today’s game. “If the Cardinals win every series until the end of the season, I believe they will make the playoffs.” The Cardinals have now won three straight series, all against teams the Cardinals are in contention against whether it be the division or Wild Card.
Today was Jack Flaherty day. Flaherty day usually means two things. You can expect some good pitching, because Flaherty is good at pitching. You can also expect him to receive very little help, because for some reason the offense and bullpen seem to take the day off when he’s pitching. A pitcher as good as Flaherty pitching for a team that is above .500 should not be 4-6 going into today’s game. It’s an example of the win statistic being a garbage stat, but it’s also an example of how Flaherty has kind of gotten screwed by his teammates this year.
Because I’m all about showing proof too, Flaherty has allowed 1 run or less in 10 of his starts this year. The Cardinals are somehow 6-4 in those starts and I realize that is still a winning record, but 1 run or less from your starter! Including today, Flaherty has also received 3 runs or less of run support in 10 of his 18 starts. So that’s how a pitcher as good as Flaherty is only 5-6 in this year.
On to the game, of which there is not much to say, because you’ve seen it before. Flaherty was his usual self. He pitched the first two innings without a hit or a walk, and for good measure, struck two guys out in the process as well. He did run into trouble in the 3rd inning, partially of his own making, when he allowed a leadoff single and then hit the next guy to put runners on 1st and 2nd with nobody out. Opposing starter Trevor Williams was up and he sacrificed both runners to 2nd and 3rd. Corey Dickerson, the leadoff batter, was up. He has a 129 wC+ and a 12.2 K% on the year. But he also has a 4.3 BB% so patience he does not have. Flaherty threw him nothing but junk with not a single pitch in the strike zone and Dickerson swung and miss three times to strike out. He got Starling Marte to weakly ground out to end the inning.
In the 4th, he had a spotless inning, striking out the first two batters, but Colin Moran made him throw 10 pitches before grounding out, which was annoying. In the 5th, Flaherty once again ran into trouble. He allowed a leadoff double by Adam Frazier. Jose Osuna hit a rocket grounder right to Kolten Wong, and it was hit hard enough that Frazier remained planted at 2nd base. That was important when Jordy Mercer hit a line drive single over Jedd Gyorko’s head. The ball was hit hard, but Frazier also started back towards 2nd before running to 3rd, so some bad reads by Frazier kept him at 3rd base. Jordan Luplow pinch-hit for the pitcher, removing Williams from the game, and he immediately grounded into an inning ending double play ball.
Flaherty’s day ended in the 6th, when he walked the impatient Dickerson - I’m aware of the irony here given what I said earlier - on five pitches. He struck out Marte on three pitches. He fell behind Gregory Polanco 3-1, but he got way under a ball and hit a high flyball to right field for a harmless out. He finished his night with a strikeout of Francisco Cervelli, Cardinal killer (or so it seems).
Meanwhile, the Cards bats were not really present against Williams, who pitched fine. In the 1st, the Cardinals went down 1-2-3, but they didn’t exactly go down easy, with Williams throwing 24 pitches to three batters. He managed to get his pitch count under control in the 2nd inning, with an 11-pitch inning which only produced a line drive leadoff single from Marcell Ozuna.
The Cards threatened in the 3rd as well. With one out, Flaherty helped himself out with a single that hit off Williams and went far enough to allow Flaherty reach 1st base safely, because of his speed and I don’t mean that in jest. After Matt Carpenter lined out to center for the 2nd out, Yadier Molina singled. But the inning ended with a flyout by Martinez.
Flyouts were the name of the game for the Cards bats against Williams. They had six flyouts through the first three innings. The Cards were getting under the ball, but not getting good enough wood on it to take it out of the park. I assume this is how Williams has been successful, given his 4.85 xFIP on the season, because he neither gets groundballs or strikes many hitters out. Two 2-out hits in the 4th were to waste when Harrison Bader struck out on 3 pitches. To be fair, both hits were of the bloop variety and certainly unlucky from William’s perspective.
In the 5th, the Cards struck first. With one out, Carpenter got a pitch he liked and hit a rope over the right field porch to give the Cards a 1-0 lead. Back-to-back singles by Molina and Martinez put runners at 1st and 3rd with one out. Ozuna popped out on an ugly looking swing with a 2-0 count. Thankfully, Gyorko appears to be on his game as he lined the first pitch he saw into left field to drive in the second run. Wong lined out to center to end the inning and Williams’ night.
Flaherty was taken out of the game with 84 pitches after 6 innings, not because he was pinch-hit for, but because Mike Shildt felt it was time. Which was fair. In the 5th, he allowed three hard hit balls before getting somewhat bailed out by a double play ball. In the 6th, he walked the first guy and fell behind on Polanco 3-1. On the flip side, he also struck two hitters out in the 6th so it could have gone either way.
Immediately, it looked like it might backfired. Chasen Shreve’s biggest weakness in New York was home runs and we got a first-hand account of that today. Frazier homered off what I assume was a missed location to make it 2-1 Cards. Shildt brought in Mike Mayers, who struck out Osuna for the second out. Then he got to 0-2 on the next hitters, but walked the first and then allowed a single to the 2nd. With 17 pitches and Dickerson up, he took Mayers out and put in Jordan Hicks. He got a groundout.
Hicks also pitched the 8th and he couldn’t have made a quicker inning. He got a groundout, a popout and a strikeout on 8 pitches. In total, Hicks needed just 10 pitches to get through the 1.1 IP he pitched. Bud Norris replaced him and he was also pretty efficient. He struck out the first two batters on 9 combined pitches and got a groundout on 1-0 to end the game. Cards win 2-1 and win another series.
Flaherty line: 6 IP, 7 Ks, 3 H, BB, HBP - Always a good game when you can lower your ERA, FIP, xFIP and probably his SIERA too.
MLB Network ran a segment asking who should win MVP and did not even mention the guy with literally the highest WAR in the MVP so to all the Cardinals fans reading this - make sure to be loud about Carpenter deserving MVP. Maybe it’ll trickle up to the sports writers, who will have no choice but to pay attention.
I neglected to mention anything about the offense after the 5th inning, but that’s because there wasn’t much of it. The Pirates pitched 4 nearly perfect innings, with a walk by Greg Garcia and a single by Martinez the only blemishes.
Despite the lack of runs, the Cardinals did get 10 hits and 2 walks, plus a baserunner on an error. I’m glad the series was won, because this series was hell with all the men left on base.
Tomorrow, the Cards begin a brand new series, this one against a team that isn’t very good. They play at Miami against the Marlins and it’s Luke Weaver against Wei-Yin Chen, a pitcher with a 5.86 ERA. So definitely win tomorrow please.