Every time Jack Flaherty takes the mound, you wonder if this will be the night.
Last night in Arizona, Mr. Flaherty threw six more hitless innings. The only hit he allowed in his 7-inning, 11-strikeout performance came by virtue of a grounder off the bat of Eduardo Escobar that started foul, but bounced oddly fair past first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.
Over his last 15 starts, Jack has allowed no runs in 8 of them. Three different times he has gone at least 7 innings allowing just one hit. He has another seven-inning, two-hit outing.
Over his last 99.1 innings and 368 batters faced, Jack has been reached for just 12 runs (11 earned) on 48 hits (32 singles, 10 doubles and 6 home runs). He has notched 124 strikeouts (more than one third of the batters to face him), a 1.00 ERA, a .142 batting average and a .224 slugging percentage against him.
His record is just 6-3, though. In the 15 games, the Cards have scored more than two support runs for him exactly four times. Last night was the sixth time that he was left with just one run. Another time the birds gave him no offensive support at all.
All of those trends came together last night in a kind of a nightmare of a game. The Cards gave Jack his one run early, but didn’t score again. Flaherty preserved his lead with 7 scoreless innings, and the bullpen served up the lead in the ninth.
Ten innings after that, Arizona won a very damaging 3-2 decision in a marathon game that lasted almost seven hours (box score).
Five starts into September, and Mr. Flaherty holds a 0.97 ERA for the month. It is also 0.97 for 14 second half starts.
The loss hurts as the hard-charging Milwaukee Brewers have pushed their way back to 2.5 games out (1.5 games now, after the completion of Thursday’s action). With one game left against Cincy and three in Colorado, Milwaukee may not lose again, putting the Cards in the position of having to sweep Chicago again this weekend.
This thing, I fear, will come down to the very last pitch of the very last inning.
Marcell Ozuna bounced into two double plays last night – giving him a career high 20 for the season. His previous high was the 18 he hit into 2017.
Dexter Fowler’s home run accounted for his sixty-fifth RBI of the season – a career high. His eighteenth home run ties his career high.
Fowler’s home run also gave St Louis the first run of the game for the second straight game. The Cards have now claimed the first run in 17 of their last 22 games.
Goldschmidt’s home run gave the Cards a brief lead in the thirteenth inning. It was his seventh late, game-changing RBI. He is second on the team in that category. Paul DeJong has 10. Matt Carpenter is third with 5.
Through 157 games, the 2019 Cardinals had never played more than eleven innings. In this century, they have played 20 innings just twice, and 19 innings only one other time. The 20 inning games came on April 27, 2003 in Florida (a 7-6 win – they were called the Florida Marlins back then), and on April 17, 2010 at home against the Mets (a 2-1 loss). Their previous 19-inning game this century was on August 19, 2012. They lost at home to Pittsburgh, 6-3.
The game against the Mets also lasted exactly 6:53, meaning that last night’s game tied that Met game for the longest Cardinal game by time this century.
The Cards have now lost 4 of their last 9 quality starts, and have lost 23 times this season when their starter has given them a quality start, their most such loses since the 2016 team lost 24 quality starts. At 51-23 in those games, St Louis is losing 31.1% of the time that their starter throws a quality start. If that percentage holds, it will be the team’s highest since the 2014 team lost 31.9% of its quality starts.