After Flaherty’s three-hit, nine-strikeout effort in six scoreless innings on Friday, Hudson followed up with six scoreless innings of his own and, backed by home runs from Harrison Bader and Paul Goldschmidt, pitched the Cardinals to a 6-0 win Saturday night, holding the Rockies to just two hits.
“Jack and Dak, it’s a nice duo,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “We like all our guys, but those guys have really done well.”
The two young Cardinals starters -- Hudson is 24 years old and Flaherty is 23 -- have turned their pitching up a notch in August. Hudson has allowed five earned runs in 26 1/3 innings this month (1.71 ERA). Combined with Flaherty’s 0.28 ERA in August, the two right-handers have a 0.93 ERA this month.
“We don’t underappreciate the fact that [Hudson] and Jack are young guys,” Shildt said. “They’re going out there as young guys in this league, and that’s one of the reasons I’ve always been so impressed. Their stuff is their stuff, and it’s plenty good. The understanding of how to grow into being an above-average, elite, consistent starting pitcher in this league, there’s some growth with that.”
Shildt and pitching coach Mike Maddux were patient with Flaherty and Hudson as the two honed their craft in the first half of the season.They struggled at times, but the Cardinals stuck with them. Why?
Because the two were able to learn from experience.
“They do two things very well that’s very impressive regardless of age,” Shildt said. “It’s a thing I’ve noticed in player development and accelerating their development. Experience, the best two ways you get it is through your own -- which those two guys are super intentional about looking at [their starts], reviewing, taking the good and figuring out what we can do to improve their craft.
“The other thing they do is grow through other people’s experiences. It’s a very mature way of living. They’re smart about looking and studying the craft of others, so they can apply it when they go. That really accelerates your curve.”
The patience the Cardinals had with their two young pitchers is paying off now.
Flaherty and Hudson are two big reasons why Cardinals starters have a 3.33 ERA this month. It’s welcome consistency for a rotation that has struggled with it all season, and Flaherty and Hudson are leading the charge as the Cardinals push for the playoffs. The first-place Cardinals are 1 1/2 games ahead of the Cubs in the National League Central, have won 12 of their last 15 and are a season-high 12 games above .500.
“We’re in there trying to be us,” Hudson said. “I’m able to see what he’s doing, and I’m throwing right after him so I’m able to learn from him and create my own path. Just trying to be Dakota, and he’s being Jack, and we’re doing the best we can at staying within that mindset.”
Flaherty and Hudson have two different games, but both are equally effective. While Flaherty relies on a high-velocity fastball, Hudson thrives on his sinker. That makes Hudson a ground-ball pitcher, with his 58 percent ground ball rate the highest among qualified Major League starters.
Of Hudson’s 95 pitches on Saturday, he threw 48 sinkers -- 51 percent -- according to Statcast. It’s no coincidence that he only had seven hard-hit balls against him, and three of those were groundouts.
He had to work out of some trouble after allowing three walks Saturday, including back-to-back ones in the fourth. But as the game went on, he found his command and found his way out smoothly when he got Ian Desmond to ground into a double play and end the frame.
“I had to really find it as the game went on, and that includes aggression with what I’m doing,” Hudson said. “That aggression, instead of nibbling that outside corner, I’m able to play it out there, but play it down in the zone and trust it to do what it’s going to do and trust my defenders, which, they’ve been incredible all year.”