Thursday’s Game Report: Cardinals 2, Brewers 0

Thursday’s Game Report: Cardinals 2, Brewers 0

By Rob Rains

Jack Flaherty was well aware of what he called the “demons” that had affected his previous starts in Milwaukee, including allowing a career-high nine runs in just three innings in his last start there last September.

What he also was well aware of going into Thursday’s game, however, was how well he has been pitching this season – which he views as far more important than what occurred over the previous two years.

“I’m not going to look back and think about it,” Flaherty said of those previous starts. “Obviously you know how things have gone when you’ve come here before. But at the end of the day you’ve got to find a way to push that to the side and focus on staying present. All those things happened in the past. All you can control is what’s going on right here in the present, which was today.

“No previous games are going to have any affect on what’s going on today. That’s the only way to look at it, to focus on today, anything that happened prior means nothing. The numbers are there and they are what they are. All you control is what’s going on right there.”

That focus helped Flaherty limit the Brewers to just four hits over six shutout innings, protecting a 1-0 lead from the first inning on as he outdueled the Brewers’ Corbin Burnes to become the first seven-game winner in the majors this season.

In raising his record to 7-0, Flaherty also became only the third pitcher in Cardinals history to post that record in his first eight starts of the season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only other two pitchers to do that were Bob Gibson in 1965 and Bob Tewksbury in 1994.

The leadoff hitter reached base in four of Flaherty’s six innings, including two leadoff doubles, but none of those runners advanced past second base.

“That was two really, really good pitchers going at each other,” said manager Mike Shildt. “Jack’s not going to back down from anybody. He’s going to embrace the competition and he went out and did his part. He made some big pitches; the ability to strand two leadoff doubles was huge.”

Coming into the game Flaherty had made six career starts in Milwaukee, going 0-3. In four starts during the 2019 and 2020 seasons, he had allowed a combined 21 runs over 16 innings.

Dating back to the last three innings of his May 1 start at Pittsburgh, Flaherty has not allowed a run in his last 16 innings. He worked seven shutout innings against the Rockies at home on May 7.

Since giving up six runs in 37-degree weather on opening day in Cincinnati, Flaherty has allowed seven earned runs in seven starts, covering 43 innings, an ERA of 1.46.

Here is how Thursday’s game broke down:

At the plate: A two-out single by Nolan Arenado in the fist inning drove in Tommy Edman, who led off the game with a single, the only run in the game until the ninth inning. Arenado later was thrown out at the plate to end the first, the first of two runners cut down at the plate on throws from the outfield. The Cardinals also left 10 runners on base … Pinch-hitter Lane Thomas led off the ninth by drawing a walk and later stole third and scored on a wild pickoff throw to first … Arenado had three of the Cardinals’ eight hits … In the three games, the Cardinals scored a combined two runs in 19 2/3 innings against the three Milwaukee starters, drawing three walks and striking out 27 times. They won two of the three games despite going just 3-of-28 with runners in scoring position, including 1-of-13 on Thursday.

On the mound: The shutout was only the second for the Cardinals in their last 45 games in Milwaukee, dating back to 2016. The previous shutout there was on April 4, 2018, the second game of the season … Flaherty walked two and struck out six, stranding six runners … The bullpen combination of Giovanny Gallegos, Genesis Cabrera and Alex Reyes preserved the shutout, with Reyes earning his 11th save by pitching around a leadoff walk and a two-out single in the ninth … In the three games the Cardinals pitchers combined to hold the Brewers to just two hits in 31 at-bats with runners in scoring position, including 0-of-10 on Thursday.

Key stat: This was the fourth shutout for the Cardinals in the last 11 games, three of which have been caught by Andrew Knizner who got the start as Yadier Molina got the day game off after a night game on Wednesday night, when he also took too foul tips off his face mask.

Worth noting: It appears likely that Paul DeJong will be going on the injured list, although Shildt said a final decision won’t be made until the team’s medical personnel completes further evaluation of Thursday’s MRI. DeJong was hit by a pitch on Tuesday night and felt more discomfort which forced him out of the game on Wednesday night. DeJong was originally said to be suffering from tightness in his left side, but after the MRI Shildt called it a bone bruise to DeJong’s ribs … Daniel Ponce de Leon, on the injured list with inflammation in his right arm, was set to make a rehab start for Triple A Memphis on Thursday night … The Cardinals stole a season-high four bases on Thursday, two by Edman and one each by Lane Thomas and Goldschmidt.

Looking ahead; The road trip continues on Friday night with the first of three games in San Diego. Johan Oviedo, taking the place of the injured Carlos Martinez in the rotation, will start the opener, followed by Adam Wainwright on Saturday and Kwang Hyun Kim on Sunday night.

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.