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PITTSBURGH • On July 7, the day before the All-Star break, Cardinals righthander Jack Flaherty suffered his third consecutive loss in a 4-6 first half. But he had offered a snapshot of what the second half might look like. 

Flaherty took a no-hitter into the seventh inning that day and wound up losing 1-0 at San Francisco despite giving up just two hits over seven innings. Since that date, Flaherty has pitched just like that virtually every game. Like Sunday’s game here, for example.

Flaherty struck out 10 and permitted only five hits in eight innings in a 2-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. He is 10-7 now and, over his past 71 1/3 innings since the break, he has permitted 37 hits and six earned runs while striking out 89 and walking 17.

“I started executing better that game,” said Flaherty, pointing to that July start. “I made small adjustments, not my mechanics, but mentally. I just tried to carry it from one start to the next.

Already having won Pitcher of the Month in the National League for August, he has a leg up on September, a month in which he hasn’t been scored on in 16 innings. He has given up only six hits while striking out 18 and walking two.

Flaherty didn’t win a game last September after not losing one in August but he is 2-0 in this month with three or four starts left.

“That’s what pitching looks like,” said manager Mike Shildt. “Phenomenal job.”

Flaherty won’t be 24 until next month but Shildt said, “Age doesn’t have to disqualify you from having consistent success in this league.”

Matt Carpenter, who had two hits in a rare start, scored the first run on Harrison Bader’s single in the fifth. Paul Goldschmidt doubled for the Cardinals’ other RBI in the sixth as the club won for the 37th time in 55 games since that loss before the break.

The Cardinals’ lead rose to a season-high 4 ½ games over the second-place Chicago Cubs in the National League Central Division as the injury-riddled Cubs lost to Milwaukee for the third consecutive day.

CARPENTER HAS TWO HITS, SCORES A RUN

Reduced to a backup role these days, Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter still has been a contributor to the club’s success lately.

Receiving his first start in this series, Carpenter hustled a fifth-inning double out of what should have been a single to left and then scored the game’s first run Sunday on a one-out single up the middle by Harrison Bader as the Cardinals forged ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The hit, plus a later single, extended Carpenter’s hitting streak to four games in which he has gone six for eight, with most of the at-bats pinch hit at-bats.

Pirates righthanded rookie James Marvel had sailed through the Cardinals until the fifth, allowing one hit. But the Cardinals knocked him out of the game in the sixth when Paul Goldschmidt doubled home Kolten Wong, who had drawn a leadoff walk, and the Cardinals led 2-0.

Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty allowed two hits in the first four innings.  But the Pirates began their fifth with a double to right by Jose Osuna and Melky Cabrera’s single to center where Bader missed on a diving attempt but kept the ball close enough to him that Osuna couldn’t advance. That proved pivotal.

Flaherty got Adam Frazier to hit into a forcceout, with Osuna going to third. But then Flaherty induced Jacob Stallings to ground into a double play started by third baseman Carpenter and Osuna was stranded.

Through seven scoreless innings, Flaherty struck out nine  but he didn’t help himself much on offense in the seventh.

With runners at first and second and nobody out, he bunted into a forceout at third. Moments later, he was picked off first and he Cardinals didn’t score.

PITTSBURGH HAS A MARVEL

Cardinals righthander Jack Flaherty was per usual Sunday, blanking the Pittsburgh Pirates for the first three innings although he did give up two hits, so he wasn’t quite the marvel who was making his big-league debut for Pittsburgh.

James Marvel, a 36th-round draft choice from Duke in 2015, held the Cardinals hitless for the first three until Marcell Ozuna singled with two out in the fourth.  Marvel, who tops out at 91 mph with his fastball, was the minor leagues’ top winner this season, recording a total of 16 at Class AA Altoona and Class AAA Indianapolis.

FLAHERTY ON REMARKABLE RUN

Jack Flaherty, the National League Pitcher of the Month for August and who threw one-hit ball for eight innings in his last start, will try to continue one of the most dominant stretches any pitcher has had this year when he faces Pittsburgh on Sunday. 

The young Cardinals righthander has allowed more than three hits and more than one earned run in only one of his past eight starts. Totaled, that adds to 52 innings pitched, 23 hits allowed and only five runs surrendered. The Cardinals are 6-2 in those games and Flaherty is 5-1.

Matt Carpenter is starting at third base and Tommy Edman has moved to right field to give Dexter Fowler a day off.

The Cardinals are 7-1 in their first eight games at PNC Park this season. They will be off on Monday before playing three in Colorado against the Rockies, who are the last team with a losing record the Cardinals will play this season.

The final 16 will come against playoff aspirants Milwaukee (three), Washington (three), Arizona (three) and Chicaago (seven).

CARDINALS' LINEUP 

1. Tommy Edman rf

2. Kolten Wong 2b

3. Paul Goldschmidt 1b

4. Marcell Ozuna lf

5. Paul DeJong ss

6. Yadier Molina c 

7. Matt Carpenter 3b

8. Harrison Bader cf

9. Jack Flaherty p

PITTSBURGH LINEUP 

1. Kevin Newman ss

2. Bryan Reynolds lf

3. Starling Marte cf

4. Colin Moran 3b

5. Jose Osuna 1b

6. Melky Cabrera rf

7. Adam Frazier 2b

8. Jacob Stallings c 

9. James Marvel p

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Rick Hummel is a Cardinals beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.