Since the All-Star break, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty has been absolutely dominant. He owns a 0.91 ERA over 99.1 innings and is just the fourth player in baseball history to finish the second half of the season with an ERA under 1.00.
On Sunday, he pitched seven scoreless innings and picked up the win as the Cardinals clinched their first NL Central title since 2015 — which is also the last time St. Louis advanced to the postseason. Flaherty’s second-half surge helped St. Louis post a 47-27 record after the All-Star break (91-71 overall).
Before getting taken out of the game, Flaherty walked to the on-deck circle in the bottom of the seventh for his turn to bat. But he was then pulled for a pinch hitter, veteran pitcher Adam Wainwright began pumping up the crowd from the top of the dugout, and Flaherty received a curtain call.
— FOX Sports Midwest (@FSMidwest) September 29, 2019
“I was not ready for that,” Flaherty told reporters after the game. “I knew I was done, but [manager Mike] Shildt sent me out and called me back. It was not something I expected. I was not going to go back out, but they didn’t really give me a choice. That was something else.”
“He deserved that,” Wainwright told reporters. “We’re not celebrating right now if Jack doesn’t do what he did in the second half.”
Flaherty finished the regular season with a 2.75 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 231 strikeouts, all career-bests. He also became the third Cardinal to punch out at least 220 batters in a season.
This will mark the first postseason for Flaherty, who was a first-round pick by the Cardinals out of high school in 2014. The 23-year-old’s MLB debut came in September 2017, and he’s been a part of St. Louis’ starting rotation ever since.
Early on, Flaherty made a point to learn as much as he could from veterans.
“At the end of 2017, Jack came to me and said, ‘Hey, before you leave to go home, is there any way I can sit down with you and just ask questions, and just sponge for a while?'” recalled Wainwright in the Spring 2019 issue of Sports Spectrum Magazine. “Jack sits right at the table, pen and a pad, and for an hour and a half asks me question after question after question after question about how he can get better in baseball. And I just thought, ‘Wow, the maturity of someone to go, “You know what, there’s ways he can help me.”‘ Instead of being like, ‘I know everything.'”
Flaherty was also included in a group text chain called “Studs in the Word,” which was started by Wainwright, whose mentorship has helped Flaherty stay firm in his relationship with Christ.
“Because it’s such a long season and because it’s so demanding and so taxing, in order to keep that faith and keep that relationship with God, you have to put the time into it,” Flaherty told Sports Spectrum for a Spring 2019 magazine feature on Wainwright. “You just have to make the time for it. There’s a lot of excuses you could make, and you always have the opportunity to make an excuse and have some reason as to why you didn’t.”
Listed in Flaherty’s Twitter bio is Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (NKJV).
“I just think it’s a very telling thing. It’s something that’s a really good thing that I keep in the back of my mind,” Flaherty said to KSDK in May regarding the Bible verse. “I think a lot of people keep that in the back of their mind that no matter what, God’s kind of on your side.”
The Cardinals face the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS. Game 1 will be in Atlanta on Thursday and Flaherty is expected to start Game 2 on Friday.
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