Friday’s Game Report: Cardinals 5, Rockies 0
By Rob Rains
There will come a day, sometime in the future, when former minor-league roommates Jack Flaherty and Austin Gomber will get together and reminisce about their baseball careers.
No doubt what happened Friday night at Busch Stadium will come up at some point during their conversation. Flaherty will be smiling; Gomber not so much.
Pitching against each other for the first time, Flaherty shut down the Rockies on three hits over seven innings, but it was what he did at the plate that provided the most memorable moment of the night, the one that neither pitcher will forget.
Flaherty turned on a 3-1 pitch, a 91 miles per hour fastball, and launched it an estimated 416 feet, his first career homer and the first he had hit since he was a senior at Harvard-Westlake High School in Los Angeles in 2014 when he hit two the spring before he was drafted in the first round by the Cardinals.
That was the year he met Gomber, the Cardinals’ sixth-round pick in that year’s draft, and the two became close friends as they advanced through the farm system together.
“That’s my brother,” Flaherty said. “We were together all the way until he got traded. We’ve been looking forward to this one. It was fun to go up against him, it was hard to keep a straight face when he got in there (to hit) but that’s my guy, always will be.”
Flaherty became the first Cardinals pitcher to throw seven shutout innings in a game in which he also homered since Adam Wainwright on Aug. 14, 2009 against the Padres.
“As pitchers when we hit we try to make things real simple,” Flaherty said. “We’re not going to go up there and make things too complicated. Sometimes you get lucky swings. Sometimes you just hit the ball that way and you get a little bit lucky.”
Flaherty knows that Gomber, in that discussion sometime in the future, wil no doubt insist that was all the home run was – a lucky swing.
“That will be something that will come up down the road, probably somebody else will bring it up before we have a chance to talk about it,” Flaherty said. “It will happen. It was just fun to be out there and compete against him.”
Flaherty did not allow a hit after the first inning against the Rockies, with their only baserunner coming on a two-out walk to Trevor Story in the second. Flaherty, pulled after throwing 103 pitches in seven innings, retired 18 of the last 19 hitters he faced.
Here is how Friday night’s game broke down:
At the plate: Flaherty’s homer followed a two-run homer by Harrison Bader, his third of the season, with two outs in the second inning … The homer by Flaherty was the 14th by a Cardinals pitcher at Busch 3, five of them coming from Wainwright, and the first since Tyson Ross, a reliever, hit one off Clayton Kershaw on Sept. 13, 2018 … Flaherty had 116 at-bats in the majors, plus 19 in the minors, before his first home run … Andrew Knizner broke an 0-of-20 streak with a leadoff single in the fourth before singles by Tommy Edman and Dylan Carlson produced the Cardinals’ fourth run. Paul Goldschmidt’s fielder’s choice grounder drove in another run in the inning … In his first game against the Rockies, Nolan Arenado was 2-of-4, He hit a ground-rule double in his first at-bat in the second and scored on Bader’s home run and then singled in the eighth.
On the mound: Flaherty is now 6-0 to start the season and the Cardinals have won each of his seven starts. The last time the Cardinals won a starter’s first seven games of the season was when Michael Wacha started 7-0 in 2015 … All three hits Flaherty allowed came on consecutive at-bats with two outs in the first inning. He got out of the inning when Charlie Blackmon overran second on an infield hit, which would have loaded the bases, and was thrown out as he tried to get back to the base … Ryan Helsley and Genesis Cabrera covered the final two innings to complete the Cardinals’ fourth shutout of the year.
Key stat: The Cardinals improved their record to 11-2 when hitting at least two home runs.
Worth noting: It’s possible catcher Yadier Molina could come off the injured list and be back in the Cardinals lineup either Saturday or Sunday, depending on how he recovers from his pre-game workout on Friday. He almost certainly will be active when the Cardinals head out to open a road trip on Tuesday night in Milwaukee. He has been out with a tendon strain of his right foot … The get-together between Flaherty and Gomber was not the only reunion at Busch Stadium on Friday night. Carlson was a freshman teammate of Rockies catcher Dom Nunez, a senior at the time, on the 2013 Elk Grove, Calif., High School baseball team, coached by Carlson’s father, Jeff. It was the first time in their careers they had ever played against each other … John Nogowski began a rehab assignment at Triple A Memphis on Friday night and struck out in both of his at-bats before coming out of the game.
Looking ahead: Carlos Martinez will get the start on Saturday afternoon in the second game of the series.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains