Not only did St. Louis Cardinals rookie pitcher Jack Flaherty record the first win of his career, he did so with a career best of 7.2 innings, 13 strikeouts, and 120 pitches in beating Philadelphia 5-1 this afternoon.
“Big win for the team,” redirected Flaherty. “It was just kind of one of those things, I wanted to come out and give the team a chance to win and was able to do that…guys had some timely hitting, gave us the lead, tie ballgame we were able to put some runs up.”
His manager was much more complimentary of what the performance meant.
“We were thin,” shared Mike Matheny of the bullpen. “So what Jack pulled off was one of the best starts we’ve seen in a long time. That was pretty amazing. Throwing the one-hit until where he was and the kind of pitches he made all day long, it was really impressive watching a young player do that. Shows us the potential of what we have, it’s exciting to see. We needed that as a club, all the way around. He delivered for us.”
Both Bud Norris and Sam Tuivailala were unavailable for use out of the bullpen. Greg Holland was also iffy.
“We had a number and the number was 120 that we didn’t want to exceed,” explained Matheny. “If it looked good to that point, we added on a little bit gave us a little more room knowing how shallow we were in the ‘pen. We pushed him. He responded. You’re looking at really not a stress inning–the one run he gave up, up til that point he was in control making great pitches all day long. A couple counts ran deep because of foul balls ran him into some deeper, but not because he was working behind. It was impressive.”
Initially, it appeared that Flaherty’s day would be done after the 7th inning. He was due up first and had thrown 106 pitches, giving up just one hit. The crowd acknowledged his efforts as he left the field, but soon he appeared in the on-deck circle.
“I wanted to see the look in his eyes and ask him, he gave me some dirty look and I thought that was about perfect,” smiled Matheny. “I returned the look later and he thought that was pretty funny. At the time, you just want to know. It’s hard for a young player–Jack, he’s got a maturity on the mound that’s beyond his experience. Every once in a while, you’ve got to give a guy a chance.”
“No, I wasn’t thinking it was over,” said Flaherty. “I knew my spot was leading off, so I knew they were gonna be kind of in between. They asked me if I was good to go, I didn’t say anything–I just gave them a look like yeah, I’m good, don’t worry about it.”
The applause Flaherty received after the 7th inning paled into comparison to the roar and standing ovation he received when exiting the game for good with two outs in the 8th.
“That’s something special, you know,” said Flaherty. “I think they thought I was done after 7 because they gave a little bit of ovation, but the come out after that was something special.”
Relying on his sinker early to run in on the right handed hitters, Flaherty used the slider away later to hitters. His thirteen strikeouts are the most by a Cardinals pitcher since Carlos Martinez fanned 13 Milwaukee Brewers in 2016.
“Outs are outs, no matter what way they come,” said Flaherty. “Whether it’s a strikeout, or you get a first pitch pop up, first pitch ground out. Outs are outs, help you pitch deeper into the game.”
Besides his work on the mound, Flaherty also singled to right field in the 3rd inning–his first big league hit.
“I got kind of tired looking up at the scoreboard seeing the zero next to the batting average,” joked Flaherty. “That was a good one to get out of the way.”
photo credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports