Home News Jack Flaherty strikes out five in scoreless start, win vs. Marlins

Jack Flaherty strikes out five in scoreless start, win vs. Marlins

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MIAMI — Attacking right from the beginning of games has been a point of emphasis for weeks for Cardinals right-hander Jack Flaherty, but it never hurts to have a reminder of the mindset needed for such an approach.

Long before he took the mound at loanDepot park on Thursday night, Flaherty thumbed through a journal he kept in 2019 — back when he struck out 231 batters in 196 1/3 innings and closely resembled the game’s most dominant young pitcher. In that diary, Flaherty wrote down advice given to him by the Cardinals’ backstops at the time, Yadier Molina and Matt Wieters. Boiled down, the message was blunt: Rather than trying to ease into games, attack from the start and set an early tone.

Flaherty followed those directions perfectly against Miami, scattering nine hits over 6 2/3 innings and routinely making his best pitches when there was traffic on the bases. Not only did Flaherty’s work allow him to push his scoreless streak to 12 2/3 innings, but it also laid the foundation for a 3-0 victory over the Marlins that halted the Cardinals’ losing streak at three games.

“It starts the second you cross that [first-base] line, from coming out of the dugout and attacking from pitch one,” said Flaherty, who had seen Cardinals pitchers yield nine first-inning runs in the first three games against the Marlins. “The goal every time is to see how many first-pitch strikes you can get, but really it’s just about setting the tone. … You can’t really coast into the game; you’ve got to make pitches right away.”

All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado gave Flaherty all the run support he needed with a sixth-inning solo home run off Eury Pérez. The Marlins’ 20-year-old flamethrower had knocked Arenado back off the plate with the prior pitch, before he hit the ball the opposite way for his 17th home run. As impressive as it was, Arenado saved his plaudits for Flaherty, who resembled the ace St. Louis has needed all season — especially with the way he pitched through traffic vs. Miami.

“Jack has elite stuff, and for him it’s just about being as consistent as possible,” said Arenado, who will be the Cardinals’ lone representative at the MLB All-Star Game on Tuesday night in Seattle. “When Jack is consistent, he’s just as good as anybody out there. He pitched a great game, and we really needed it, right? We lost a tough game yesterday and we were facing [Eury Pérez], who is really good. And we needed Jack to be really good, and he was.”

Flaherty became the first Cardinals pitcher to surrender nine hits and deliver at least 6 2/3 scoreless innings since Jason Marquis in 2004, per the Elias Sports Bureau. As dialed in as Flaherty was from the start, Miami’s Luis Arraez — MLB’s hottest hitter — still reached him for an opening single. But the righty responded by stranding two in the opening inning. 

Flaherty left Jean Segura at second in the second inning, and he got out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth by getting cleanup hitter Jesús Sánchez to fly out. Flaherty retired the first two hitters in the seventh, but he gave up two singles and walked Bryan De La Cruz to load the bases with his 111th pitch of the night. Chris Stratton relieved Flaherty and needed just two pitches to get out of the jam and keep his slate clean.

Combined with his six scoreless innings on Saturday against the Yankees, Flaherty has not surrendered a run since June 19 in Washington. Even more impressively, he has not yielded a home run in 55 1/3 innings, MLB’s third-longest active streak, per Elias.

“It was fun to watch Jack compete, because he was into every pitch,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “He pounded the zone with the fastball, pitched in and got some sinkers for broken-bat outs, and he stranded the two leadoff doubles. … The overall competition was what we wanted to see.”

Searching for motivation to help prepare for Thursday’s start, Flaherty thumbed through that four-year-old journal. Flaherty had started journaling around his starts thanks to close friend and teammate Adam Wainwright. Those notes, a record of his mental framework, came in handy for the series finale. Flaherty was ready from the start, and he didn’t let traffic on the basepaths deter his focus.

“I hadn’t done a very good job this season in the first [inning], and that’s one of the things that you take pride in,” Flaherty said. “Pretty much what [the journal said] — there’s no secret to it; just literally be on the attack instead of saying, ‘OK, let’s feel it out and see what we’ve got today.’ No, no, it’s about being ready to go from pitch No. 1.”

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