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Flaherty sharp but Cards left wanting vs. Bucs

Defensive miscues, missed opportunities prove costly
@anne__rogers
July 17, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- Jack Flaherty didn’t want this one to slip away, and he was going to do everything he could to give the Cardinals a chance to win. But it was when Flaherty came out of the game that the Cardinals faltered and lost, 3-1, to the Pirates on

ST. LOUIS -- Jack Flaherty didn’t want this one to slip away, and he was going to do everything he could to give the Cardinals a chance to win.

But it was when Flaherty came out of the game that the Cardinals faltered and lost, 3-1, to the Pirates on Tuesday night.

The loss puts the Cardinals back in third place in the National League Central, three games behind the first-place Cubs and a half-game behind the Brewers in second.

Box score

Flaherty pitched a seven-inning gem, allowing just one run on three hits. It was his second consecutive deep outing after struggling throughout the first half. The right-hander wanted to use his start against the Giants on July 7 -- when he had a no-hitter going into the seventh inning -- as fuel for the second half. He put his foot on the gas pedal Tuesday night.

“It was nice to keep that going and give the team a chance to win,” Flaherty said. “Understanding that with each game, there’s going to be things to improve on no matter how I walk away from it. There’s always going to be things to improve, but also taking away the good things, and making sure that you build on that each time out.”

He even gave the Cardinals their only run of the night with his double in the fifth inning. The Cardinals had just five hits off of Pirates starter Dario Agrazal.

“That's how it goes sometimes,” Cards second baseman Kolten Wong said. “We want to be there to help every single pitcher we can, but you're going to have those games like tonight.”

On Tuesday, Flaherty fought through traffic, allowing three hits and three walks. He did so with ease, and he punctuated his seventh and final inning with his eighth strikeout to end the frame.

“That’s excellent pitched baseball,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “He was in control pretty much throughout, then he had to gut it up in the seventh. He earned the opportunity to pitch through the seventh and got after [Kevin] Newman for a full-count punchout.”

The Cardinals' starting corps have a combined 1.02 ERA since the All-Star break. That comes after a string of games before the break during which the starters couldn’t get into the sixth inning until Flaherty’s seven-inning outing in the final game of the first half.

In the three wins before Tuesday, the Cardinals' offense put up 16 runs to back the starters, but they lacked the big hit against the Pirates on Tuesday.

“Guys were unbelievable all weekend,” Flaherty said. “We got All-Stars through and through this clubhouse, through and through the lineup. Nobody’s worrying about it. That’s the way baseball is. Sometimes you have to scratch and claw for runs, and some days, Tyler O’Neill is going to hit two home runs in a game and take care of it [like on Monday night]. That’s the game.”

The Cardinals had their chances to score, none more than the seventh inning. Dexter Fowler led off the inning with a double, and he advanced to third on a bobble in center field. It was one of the Cardinals’ two hard-hit balls all night. But he stood on third as the bottom half of the lineup couldn’t get a ball out of the infield. The Cardinals were 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

The Pirates took the lead in the ninth when Carlos Martinez put runners on first and third with one out. Colin Moran hit a hard grounder to Wong, who saved it from going in the outfield. Wong was hoping for a double play, but he bobbled the ball out of his glove as Moran made it safely to first as the eventual winning run scored.

Wong had already watched video after the game, and he said it would have been a double play if he had been able to transfer the ball smoothly.

“That was the first thing I thought of,” Wong said. “In that situation, you don't want to definitely give up the lead. When I caught the ball, I tried to turn around and make a good throw and unfortunately couldn't get a grasp of the ball.”

Then Wong and shortstop Paul DeJong -- big reasons the Cardinals have the most double plays turned in the Majors -- couldn’t turn two on Newman’s grounder as the Pirates sealed their victory with an insurance run.

“It’s a game of execution, and the last three innings, more or less, we didn’t execute as well as they did,” Shildt said. “That was the difference in the game.”

Anne Rogers covers the Cardinals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @anne__rogers and on Facebook.