St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Jack Flaherty walks off the field in the sixth inning during a game between the Colorado Rockies and the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on Friday, Aug. 23, 2019. Flaherty held the Rockies scoreless through six innings. Photo by David Carson, firstname.lastname@example.org
ST. LOUIS — The answer, at some point in the future, could be August 2019.
When the time comes for the Cardinals, their fans, or some baseball writer out there to use hindsight as a compass and retrace the timeline of when and how Jack Flaherty arrived as a blossoming ace of a staff, a starter who could either stop a losing streak or elevate a staff, the attempt will lead them back to this month, to this stretch of games that continued Friday.
Flaherty threw six scoreless innings -- and could have pressed on, if needed -- and strong-armed the Cardinals to a 8-3 victory against Colorado at Busch Stadium.
The win, Flaherty's fourth in five starts this month, inched the Cardinals back into the first place in the National League Central, ahead of the Cubs, who lost to Washington earlier in the day.
This month, Flaherty has allowed one run. That's it. In 32 innings, the righthander has struck out 40 batters and opponents have 14 hits against him. He has flirted with no-hitters a few times since the All-Star break, and Friday started like one of those. The only Rockies player to reach base against him in the first four innings was third baseman Nolan Arenado, and he did so twice. He walked once and he took a pitch of the forearm to get to first base in the fourth inning.
Neither time did he reach second.
Flaherty struck out nine, walked the one, and would eventually allow three hits. All of them were singles. Two in came in the sixth inning, his final inning of work as his teammates' lead mushroomed on the Rockies.
Marcell Ozuna, wearing "The Big Bear" name on the back of his all-white Players Weekend jersey and his neon green sleeve for the first time all season, hit a two-run homer in the first to give the Cardinals the early lead. He added an RBI double in the sixth inning, and he finished with two runs scored. He traced is homers to the green sleeve, with a grin.
"Maybe so many more homers coming," Ozuna said. "I feel a little better. My hand doesn't have too much pain. I got my pitch to hit."
Ozuna's power has started to climb in the past week as he distances himself from the fractures in his hand that cost him July.
Tommy "Eddie" Edman singled twice and scored twice in as the Cardinals piled on in the fourth and five innings with four runs total. Flaherty contributed a sacrifice fly to the fifth inning when Harrison Bader's speed created three runs.
He drew an error on an infield single, sped for third, and then was able to score on Flaherty's fly ball to shallow center field.
All of the Rockies' runs came in the ninth inning against John Gant.
Rockies crack Flaherty's no-hit stinginess in fifth, but shutout rolls on
With the name of his friend, the late Tyler Skaggs, stenciled on his cleats and mentioned on the name spread from shoulder to shoulder on the back of his jersey, Jack Flaherty has continued his overwhelming dominance that began on the eve of the All-Star break.
The Cardinals' second-year starter, with an ERA of less than 0.90 in the second half, singled in his first at-bat Friday vs. the Rockies.
That gave him more hits than he's allowed through four innings.
Center fielder Yonathan Daza snapped the no-hitter with a leadoff single in the top of the fifth inning. The shutout rolls on as the Cardinals lead, 3-0. Kolten Wong pushed the lead forward in the bottom of the fourth with a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch. That does go in the box score as an RBI. A Run Bruised In.
One Rockies player has reached place through four innings, and he has done so twice. Nolan Arenado drew a walk in the first inning. In the fourth, Arenado checked his swing and took a pitch off his forearm. The pitch caromed into Yadier Molina's facemask, and both players were momentarily stunned by the events. Arenado took first, and he advanced no farther. Molina remained in the game.
Flaherty, who will be wearing "Flare" on his jersey later in Players Weekend, requested a switch for this start. He has "LOVE YOU TY" on his jersey. He was one of several players, most of them from California, who had some tribute to Skaggs as part of their jersey.
The Cardinals lead, 2-0, going into the bottom of the fourth inning.
Both of the runs came on Marcell "The Big Bear" Ozuna's home run in the first inning. The Cardinals had two hits, a walk, and a runner reach on an error in the first inning, but both of the runs were unearned against Rockies starter Peter Lambert.
The homer was Ozuna's 24th of the season. The Cardinals had scored eight consecutive runs against the Rockies with two-run homers.
With day-glo color kicks, Cardinals' Fowler 'sets table; cleans it, too,' says Shildt
The monochromatic jerseys are hung with care in the Cardinals' clubhouse, like Halloween ghosts on hooks, each one as pearly white as the next.
It's up to the players to add color.
Dexter Fowler is going with day-glo pink and green, one on each cleat, as chosen by his daughter, Naya.
The Cardinals and Major League Baseball plunge into Players Weekend with a distinctive twist on the annual chance for players to break loose from the uniform rules, wear their nicknames, and generally add some twists to their usual staid uniforms. Naturally, baseball has decided to go with noir jerseys for the road teams and all white for the home teams. Not stitch of color on them. Even the batting helmets are all black for the Rockies and all white for the Cardinals, including the interlocking STL.
Players are accessorizing from there. Jack Flaherty, the starter Friday night, will wear cleats that are a tribute to the late Tyler Skaggs, his friend and Angels pitcher who died earlier this season. Andrew Miller has shoes designed with the colors and logos of his alma mater, UNC. Miles Mikolas will face the team from 5,280 feet higher than sea level with the nickname, "5,280s" on his back.
Kolten Wong took the field for batting practice wearing a jersey from Hawaii's team in the Little League World Series.
"Gotta represent," he said.
Fowler let his eldest daughter Naya pick the colors of his cleats. She selected a bright pink, and for her sister Ivy she gave a bright green. Fowler also has his daughters' names on the shoes.
His homer, as predicted by catcher Yadier Molina, was the difference Thursday night in the Cardinals' victory against the Colorado Rockies, and Fowler is back where he's been for this successful stretch by the Cardinals -- hitting leadoff. Signed before the 2017 season to be the team's leadoff hitter, Fowler has been in and out of the role and is now on a roll. The Cardinals have won 10 of their past 13 games, and in that span Fowler has hit .302 with a .415 on-base percentage and a .996 OPS.
He's 13-for-43 in that stretch with three homers and 15 RBIs.
"He's setting it," manager Mike Shildt of the table, "and he's cleaning it too."
Shildt is wearing "Shildty" on his jersey.
He does not have any plans to wear colorful or special shoes.
Also: Lefty Austin Gomber is scheduled to throw an inning for High-A Palm Beach on Friday evening and begin a rehab assignment. The Cardinals are not scripting too far ahead with the lefty, though the available innings and days are limited for Gomber. That makes it mostly that he returns to the majors as a reliever, if he's able to pitch his way into the September mix.
Here's the lineup that, starting with Fowler:
1. Dexter Fowler, RF
2. Kolten Wong, 2B
3. Paul Goldscmidt, 1B
4. Marcell Ozuna, LF
5. Paul DeJong, SS
6. Yadier Molina, C
7. Tommy Edman, 3B
8. Harrison Bader, CF
9. Jack Flaherty, P
Check back throughout the evening here at C-Beat and StlToday.com for ongoing coverage of the Cardinals' game. Rick Hummel is at the keyboard for the gamer and all of the coverage in the paper. I'm handling the blog this evening while working on Sunday's Cardinals Insider.