Jack Flaherty already gets a ton of run support from his lineup, but why not back himself, too?
Flaherty led off the third inning with his first career home run off Rockies starter and former teammate Austin Gomber, driving in the third of the Cardinals’ five runs on Friday as St. Louis beat Colorado, 5-0, at Busch Stadium.
The home run -- which traveled 416 feet and had an exit velocity of 106.2 mph, per Statcast -- put the Cardinals just two runs away from reaching five runs scored, which they eventually hit in the fifth. St. Louis has now reached at least five runs scored in each of Flaherty’s seven starts this season, and it brought the club’s run total in games started by the right-hander to 66. And considering the home run came off Gomber, Flaherty’s former teammate and fellow 2014 Draft pick, it provided the highlight of the night in the Cardinals’ shutout win over the Rockies.
“As pitchers, when we hit, we try to make things real simple. It's just the way it is,” Flaherty said. “We're not gonna go out there and make things too complicated, and sometimes you get a lucky swing, sometimes you just hit the ball that way and you get a little bit lucky.”
Combined with a pitching performance that saw him retire the last 13 batters he faced and 18 of 19 after the first inning, Flaherty put up arguably his best all-around outing of the year as he became the first pitcher in the Majors to six wins this season.
“Jack is doing what he's always done,” said Cardinals center fielder Harrison Bader, who hit a second-inning, two-run homer. “He pounds the zone, pitches to soft contact, and then today, he put up a run and helped himself out. You always love to see that, and it's a lot of fun working behind Jack.”
The story heading into the game was third baseman Nolan Arenado’s first time facing his former team -- against whom he did manage two hits and a few defensive gems -- but the focus quickly turned towards Flaherty.
He ran into trouble in the first inning, giving up three straight two-out singles that should’ve loaded the bases. After the third hit, however, shortstop Paul DeJong prevented the ball from getting to the outfield and threw to second baseman Tommy Edman to catch Charlie Blackmon running too far off second base for the third out.
From there, Flaherty was nearly perfect.
Flaherty allowed just one walk over the next two innings, missing on a full-count fastball to Trevor Story with two outs in the third. He struck out six batters en route to just his second seven-inning start of the season, though this was the first time he made it through seven with no runs allowed.
With a 6-0 record, a 2.83 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP, Flaherty is looking like the ace the Cardinals need him to be.
“It's nice to have a guy that you know is going to go out there and is going to go and be able to pitch and get you deeper in the game, and give you more than a chance to win it -- which is ultimately what we're asking starters to do,” St. Louis manager Mike Shildt said. “It's nice to have that guy that [can] go out, under control, [throw] multiple pitches, and is really a really good competitor and is very consistent in how he's competing.
“That's a great feeling for a club. That's what good clubs have.”
Even with the exceptional pitching display he put on, the home run is what will be on highlight reels Saturday morning.
It was the first of Flaherty’s career and the first for a Cardinals pitcher since Tyson Ross took Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw deep on Sept. 13, 2018. According to Statcast, only one St. Louis pitcher has hit a home run longer than Flaherty’s since 2015 (Miles Mikolas, 426 feet on Aug. 24, 2018, against the Rockies at Coors Field).
Shildt said prior to the game that Flaherty was having some of the best at-bats he’d seen from any National League pitcher.
It took just one at-bat on Friday for Flaherty to validate that.