ST. LOUIS -- Jack Flaherty's teammates were already congratulating him in the Cardinals' dugout when Mike Matheny peered the rookie's way. And why not? Flaherty had just thrown 102 pitches and racked up nearly a dozen strikeouts through seven innings on a sun-splashed afternoon. His first big league win appeared
ST. LOUIS -- Jack Flaherty's teammates were already congratulating him in the Cardinals' dugout when Mike Matheny peered the rookie's way. And why not? Flaherty had just thrown 102 pitches and racked up nearly a dozen strikeouts through seven innings on a sun-splashed afternoon. His first big league win appeared assured, the 22-year-old's day seemingly done. To all but a few of the 43,560 at Busch Stadium, that is.
"I wanted to see the look in his eyes and ask him [if he could go one more]," Matheny said. "He gave me some dirty look, and I thought that was about perfect."
With just that wordless exchange, Flaherty earned extra rope rarely allotted to those of his age and elite prospect status. So he went back out for the eighth, and by the time it was over, Flaherty had capped the best start of his Major League career in grand fashion. Barreling all the way to the brink of his 120-pitch limit, Flaherty struck out Maikel Franco and Scott Kingery to finish a 13-strikeout masterpiece and lead the Cardinals to a 5-1 win.
"What Jack pulled off was something we haven't seen here in a long time," Matheny said. "It shows the potential we have, and it's exciting to see. We needed it as a club, all the way around."
Flaherty became the youngest MLB starter in five years asked to throw to the 120-pitch plateau, and the youngest Cardinals pitcher to do so since 2001. He's only eclipsed 102 pitches once -- two weeks ago at Triple-A -- in his professional career. But Matheny was so thin in the bullpen, and Flaherty so sharp on the mound, the manager allowed Flaherty to hit in the seventh.
The single Flaherty allowed to lead off the following frame was just the second the Phillies would muster against Flaherty across 7 2/3 innings, over which the righty allowed a Rhys Hoskins homer and little else. Making his fourth start of the season and ninth of his career, Flaherty retired the first 10 batters he faced and 12 of the final 13, leaning heavily on the dynamic sinker-slider combination that made him one St. Louis' second-best prospect this season according to MLB Pipeline, and No. 33 in baseball.
"We were able to execute [the sinker] early on in the game, and we kind of ran it on the righties early, and it kind of just opened up the slider late," Flaherty said. ""s[Francisco] Pena and I got into a groove there. He put down the pitch I wanted and I didn't have to shake off too much, and we just kept rolling."
In between, another youngster paced the Cardinals' offense. Hitting cleanup for the first time in place of slumping Marcell Ozuna, Tyler O'Neill homered for the second consecutive game as part of a three-hit day. Matt Carpenter collected three hits, fill-in shortstop Greg Garcia drove in two runs, and the Cardinals earned a split in the four-game series by consistently squaring up starter Aaron Nola, who's broken out this year as one of the National League's top hurlers.
"We needed it as a club all the way around," Matheny said. "It shows the potential we have and it's exciting to see."
But it also applied to flamethrowing reliever Jordan Hicks, who set new velocity records over 1 1/3 innings in relief of Flaherty. The 21-year-old threw the five hardest pitches of the season in the ninth, his fastest clocking in at at 105 mph.
"I wish I could do that," Flaherty said. "That's the only thing going through everybody's mind right now: I wish I could throw 105 miles per hour."
On Sunday, 94.9 mph -- Flaherty's fastest fastball -- was more than enough. That's because his pinpoint use of it allowed him to reach a higher number -- 120. That's rarified air in 2018, reserved only for select few who can handle the workload, who anchor rotations. The Cardinals believe Flaherty can do both, in time.
"I think Jack has the potential to have a very long career," Matheny said. "And I say that not just on his stuff, but watch just how discipline he is and how intentional he is in work, how he focuses on the game and how he does adapt. Like I said, it's not normal to see a young pitcher have that maturity as a pitcher that he has."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Fowler wiggles away: The Cardinals scored the deciding run on what appeared to be a tailor-made double-play ball of the bat of Kolten Wong in the fourth. But heads-up baserunning by William Fowler not only eliminated the double play, it also led to a run. Fowler purposely got himself hung up between first and second. That forced a rundown that led to a Carlos Santana throwing error, which allowed O'Neill to scamper home from third with the tying run. Fowler scored the go-ahead tally on Garcia's RBI single a batter later.
At 22 years and 271 days old, Flaherty became the 10th-youngest Cardinals starter to record double-digit strikeouts in one game. He's the youngest to do so since Shelby Miller, who was five days younger when he struck out 13 Rockies on May 10, 2013. Flaherty's 13 strikeouts tied a Cardinals record for most by a rookie in a single game, along with Miller, Dick Hughes (1967) and Scipio Spinks (1972).
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The 21-year-old old Hicks reclaimed his title as the hardest thrower in baseball during an electrifying ninth-inning battle with Odubel Herrera. Hicks didn't just throw the five fastest pitches of the season, he threw five of the fastest recorded on a baseball field. Two reached 105 mph, per Statcast™, during the at-bat, which ended when Hicks struck out Herrera with a 103.7-mph sinker.
HE SAID IT
"Odubel just takes forever to get in the box. It amps me up a little bit. So I bring it against him." -- Hicks
The first installment of the annual 1-70 series begins Monday, when the Cardinals and Royals open a three-game set. Marcell Ozuna should return to the Cardinals lineup, while Miles Mikolas (5-0, 2.63) opposes Ian Kennedy (1-4, 4.98) on the hill. First pitch comes at 7:15 p.m. CT at Busch Stadium.