By Rob Rains
With Jack Flaherty on the mound for his first career postseason start on Friday, the Cardinals knew there was a good chance that the game would be a shutout.
They were just counting on it being the Braves who would fail to score.
Instead, it was the Cardinals, who had just three singles in seven innings against Mike Foltynewicz and had only one runner reach second base before the ninth inning in the 3-0 loss in Atlanta.
The loss evened the best-of-five Division Series at one win each as the scene moves to St. Louis for game three on Sunday and game four on Monday.
“You want to be in a position to be up 2-0, we leave 1-1,” said manager Mike Shildt. “We’re always looking for the best case scenario, but we’re going back home with breaking the serve, so to speak. Came back yesterday, fought, scratched, clawed, got it done.”
They didn’t get it done on Friday against Foltynewicz, who they had faced twice this season, scoring a combined nine runs in 10 2/3 innings. Only once in 21 starts in the regular season had he pitched at least seven innings and not allowed a run, throwing eight scoreless innings against the Giants on Sept. 20.
For Flaherty, not allowing a run was a frequent occurrence in the second half of the season – it happened nine times in his 15 starts after the All-Star break – as he won NL Pitcher of the Month honors for both August and September.
He would have to have been almost perfect in this game, however, to match Foltynewicz, an All-Star in 2018 who got demoted to Triple A for 10 starts this season after winning just two of his first 11 starts while posting a 6.37 ERA.
The game also was special for Foltynewicz because he grew up in Illinois, and was a fan of the Cardinals because of his parents.
“I was a big Pujols, Edmonds, Scott Rolen (fan) — all those guys coming up,” said the 27-year-old Foltynewicz. “Went to Busch Stadium a couple times, saw Greg Maddux pitch. McGwire was a big guy of mine, too.
“I was a Cardinals fan my whole life, so any chance I get to go to pitch there or play against them, you get that little more adrenaline and nerves going just because what’s at stake.”
Two of the Cardinals’ three hits off Foltynewicz were by Yadier Molina, another of the players he rooted for years ago.
“Every time I go out to bat, I don’t know what to really say to him because I’m so nervous,” he said. “So I just say, what’s up, Mr. Molina? Best of luck to you — when we were playing them in the regular season; I didn’t really say it to him today.”
It was the first time the Cardinals have been shut out in the Division Series since a 4-0 loss to the Dodgers in 2004.
Here is how the game broke down:
At the plate: The Cardinals’ only hits off Foltynewicz were a second-inning single by Yadier Molina, a single by Marcell Ozuna in the fourth and another single by Molina in the seventh, before Kolten Wong hit into an inning-ending double play … Wong had the best-hit ball off Foltyndewicz in the game in the fourth, when he flied out to the warning track in right … The only at-bat before the ninth with a runner on second came in the second, when Harrison Bader struck out for the first of what would turn out to be three times in the game … In the ninth, Paul Goldschmidt and Ozuna hit back-to-back singles with one out to bring the tying run to the plate against Mark Melancon but he bounced back from a rough outing in game one by striking out Molina and Wong to end the game and preserve Foltynewicz’s win.
On the mound: For only the third time since June 13, Flaherty allowed a run in the first inning. Ozzie Albies beat out an infield hit, went to second on a wild pitch, took third on a ground out and scored on a single by Josh Donaldson. The only other games since June when Flaherty allowed a first-inning run was on Aug. 18 (a home run by the Reds’ Eugenio Suarez) and an unearned run on Aug. 28 in Milwaukee … Flaherty came into the game having not allowed a run in his 19 previous innings and allowed only four runs in 44 innings in six September starts … Flaherty kept it a 1-0 game until the seventh, when Adam Duvall hit a pinch-hit two-run homer, batting for Foltynewicz … The three runs matched the most runs Flaherty had allowed (twice) in a game since July 7. He allowed eight hits, walked one and struck out eight in his 117-pitch outing … Tyler Webb worked a 1-2-3 eighth.
Key stat: Dexter Fowler was 0-of-4 and is 1-of-8 in the first two games of the series with one walk. Dating back to Aug. 6, when he moved into the leadoff spot, Fowler has posted a .226 average with a .341 on-base percentage. Including the first two playoff games, Fowler is just 6-of-55 in his last 14 games and has only scored four runs over that stretch.
Worth noting: The Cardinals struck out 11 times and did not draw a walk. The only other time that happened in a postseason game was in game two of the 2015 Division Series against the Cubs … Of the nine times the Cardinals were shut out during the regular season, four of those games came when Flaherty started … The last pinch-hit home run allowed by the Cardinals in the postseason was hit by Mike Morse of the Giants in the 2014 NLCS.
Looking ahead: After Saturday’s day off, Adam Wainwright will get the start in game three for the Cardinals against Braves rookie Mike Soroka. Game time at Busch Stadium will be 3:10 p.m.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains
Photo by AP courtesy of KSDK Sports