Friday’s Game Report: Cardinals 6, Royals 0
By Rob Rains
Jack Flaherty’s return from the injured list could not have gone any better for the Cardinals.
Making his first start in the majors since May 31, when he suffered a torn oblique while batting, Flaherty looked just like he did before the injury. He allowed just two hits over six innings on Friday night in pitching the Cardinals to the shutout of the Royals in Kansas City
After allowing a broken-bat single with two outs in the first, Flaherty retired the next 13 hitters in order before giving up an infield single leading off the sixth.
He threw a first-pitch strike to 16 of the 19 hitters he faced.
“I wanted to go out and give us a chance to win, just like it (his expectation) always is,” Flaherty said. “Keep making pitches until Shildty tells me that’s enough. I felt like I was able to do that and stay in the moment, stay present, and not get ahead of myself or try to do too much.
“I didn’t shake once today. Everything Yadi put down I threw. It made my job really easy with him back there … It was great to get back on the mound and throw to him.”
Back-to-back homers by Nolan Arenado and Tyler O’Neill in the fourth gave Flaherty and the Cardinals the only runs they needed en route to their fourth consecutive win, their longest streak since they also won four games in a row from May 26-29, two days before Flaherty was hurt.
Flaherty’s performance did not surprise his manager, Mike Shildt.
“Expectations are always high,” Shildt said. “I expected him to be in control and go pitch the way he’s capable of, which he clearly did tonight. He didn’t miss a beat and was in control of everything he was doing.
“It was a perfect outing, just what we needed out of Jack. We’re glad he’s back.”
Here is how Friday night’s game broke down:
At the plate: The homers by Arenado, his 23rd of the season, and O’Neill, his 19th, came in the span of three pitches with one out in the fourth, and were the Cardinals’ first hits of the game … Arenado increased the lead to 3-0 with a sacrifice fly in the fifth and the Cardinals added to their lead with two runs in the eighth on an RBI single by Molina and a sacrifice fly from Paul DeJong … Lars Nootbaar capped the scoring with a 449-foot homer into the water fountain in right center in the ninth, his second homer in as many days … The Cardinals have now scored four or more runs in nine consecutive games.
On the mound: Flaherty threw 81 pitches, striking out five and not allowing a runner past first base as he improved his record for the season to 9-1 … Giovanny Gallegos had to pitch out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth to preserve the shutout, the Cardinals’ 11th of the season, as he was able to strand two inherited runners … Ryan Helsley pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to finish off the victory.
Key stat: Flaherty went 73 days without getting on the mound for the Cardinals and there are still only 11 pitchers in the National League who have more wins than Flaherty’s total of nine, and five of those 11 just have 10 wins.
Worth noting: Dylan Carlson likely will be limited to pinch-running and perhaps being used as a defensive replacement over the weekend, Shildt said, as he recovers from a sprained right wrist that forced him to leave Thursday’s game. X-rays Friday showed there was no fracture … The other player who left Thursday’s game early, pitcher Wade LeBlanc, did land on the day injured list on Friday. He was said to be dealing with discomfort in his left elbow, but there was no specific update on the extent of his injury. Putting LeBlanc on the injured list opened a roster spot for Flaherty … The Cardinals officially announced that Miles Mikolas will start on Saturday night at Class A Peoria. This will be the fifth rehab start for Mikolas as he tries to come back from a right forearm injury.
Looking ahead: Jon Lester will get the start Saturday night in the second game of the series.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains