Sunday’s Game Report:  Cardinals 5, Reds 2

Sunday’s Game Report:  Cardinals 5, Reds 2

By Rob Rains

Patience is one of Cardinals manager Mike Shildt’s favorite words.

When his starting pitchers weren’t going as deep into games as he would have liked at the beginning of this season, Shildt knew that patience was important – as was his confidencd that those performances would soon be different.

After the past week, it appears his patience has been rewarded.

With Jack Flaherty turning in another quality start on Sunday, allowing only one run over seven innings, the Cardinals completed a series sweep over the Reds at Busch Stadium.

It also completed a week of starts from the Cardinals rotation that was much more like what Shildt expected from that group this season. Over their last five games, the five starters combined to allow only four runs over 31 2/3 innings, a 1.14 ERA. The shortest outing out of the group was 5 2/3 innings from Kwang Hyun Kim on Friday night.

“We’ve talked about the how, controlling counts, being more efficient, things that come up allowing guys to go deeper into games,” Shildt said. “I trust this group completely, it’s a talented group, believe in them unequivocally and also recognize the start of the season getting their feet under them just a little bit maybe.”

Flaherty was able to throw 14 first-pitch strikes to the 23 hitters he faced and retired the first batter in each of the first six innings, just as John Gant did on Saturday.

“Got myself in better counts and that allowed me more freedom to work and focus,” Flaherty said. “It was a lot better job of being able to work ahead, which is something our whole staff has done a lot better job of this time through.

“That first-pitch strike sets the pace for the whole at-bat, the whole game. Being on the attack and doing stuff like that, it makes for a better game.”

Here is how Sunday’s game broke down:

At the plate: Dylan Carlson had his second consecutive three-hit game, his single helping the Cardinals grab a 1-0 lead in the first. He also doubled and scored on a single by Paul Goldschmidt, his second of the game, in the eighth. Carlson also drove in a run with his single in the fifth, following a single by Andrew Knizner and a sacrificed bunt by Flaherty … In the series, hitting second for the first time this year, Carlson was 7-of-11 and also reached on a walk … Tyler O’Neill hit a pair of solo homers, the second two-homer game of his career, in his first two at-bats. O’Neill had been hitless in 14 at-bats against Reds starter Luis Castillo, the most at-bats he had against any pitcher without at least one hit.

On the mound: Flaherty retired the first 10 hitters he faced before falling behind Jesse Winker 3-0 and eventually giving up a single on a 3-2 pitch with one out in the fourth. The only other runner to reach base off Flaherty through the sixth was Jonathan India, hit by a pitch with one out in the sixth… Winker snapped the shutout bid with a leadoff homer in the seventh. Flaherty did not walk a batter and struck out six … The other Reds run scored off Jordan Hicks in the eighth … Alex Reyes had to pitch out of his own jam in the ninth to get the save, allowing a double and two walks, before stranding the bases loaded when he got the game’s final out on a ground ball.

Key stat: The Cardinals got the series sweep despite their third and fourth-place hitters, Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, going a combined 5-of-23 with only one extra-base hit, a double by Goldschmidt. The two did combine for six RBIs.

Worth noting: Shildt said the second round of medical evaluations on Yadier Molina’s right foot all came back negative. He said Molina’s return to the lineup will be dictated by his pain tolerance and treatment, but it won’t be a surprise if he plays on Monday night … Reds manager David Bell was ejected after India was hit by the pitch in the sixth, upset that Flaherty was not ejected from the game when a warning was issued to both teams … Harrison Bader still has “boxes to check” in his recovery from the arm injury that has kept him out since the middle of spring training, Shildt said. He is now throwing and taking live batting practice, however, and is back at full speed – and could be back with the Cardinals as soon as next week, assuming he does not have a setback this week.

Looking ahead: The Phillies come to town on Monday night to begin a four-game series. Adam Wainwright is scheduled to start.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains

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For the latest news and features in St. Louis Sports check out STLSportsPage.com. Rob Rains, Editor.