Jack Flaherty’s performance in the 2020 season has been a little disappointing following his impressive season last year. In his final 15 starts of 2019, Flaherty posted a 0.91 ERA, the third-lowest second-half ERA since 1920. This year, his ERA stands at 4.84 after eight games. In all fairness, the 2020 shortened season has been a difficult adjustment for many. Though Flaherty had a slow start, he returned to form against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.
The 24-year-old made his Major League debut in 2017. In 2018, Flaherty finished fifth in voting for the Rookie of the Year Award. He posted a 3.34 ERA and 1.106 WHIP in 28 starts. Still, it wasn’t until last year that Flaherty established himself as the St. Louis Cardinals’ ace. After the 2019 All-Star Game, he pitched 100 innings and did not allow a run in 91 of those innings. When asked about Flaherty’s incredible season, veteran pitcher Adam Wainwright said, “What we saw the second half is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.” Flaherty’s dominance over the second half of the season propelled the Cardinals to the postseason.
Coming into 2020, expectations for Flaherty were high. Stephanie Apstein and Matt Martell of Sports Illustrated both predicted that he would win the National League Cy Young award. Flaherty was the Opening Day starter and his first game was a success. He allowed two runs and no walks over seven innings. Due to a number of Cardinals testing positive for COVID-19, Flaherty’s next start was almost a month later.
In this start against the Chicago Cubs, Flaherty walked two and allowed a home run. He recorded only five outs before he left the game. Later in the season, Flaherty gave up three runs in 2 2/3 innings to the Cubs. Flaherty’s struggles were most pronounced when he faced the Milwaukee Brewers on September 15th. He allowed a career-high nine earned runs over three innings. Flaherty’s ERA stood at 5.52 going into Sunday’s game against the Pirates.
Sunday’s victory marked one of Flaherty’s best performances all season. Though the Pirates may not be the toughest opponent, Flaherty certainly demonstrated improved control of the strike zone. He allowed two hits and one earned run over six innings. He walked just two batters and struck out 11. The Cardinals offense continued to struggle on Sunday. The Cardinals were down 1-0 until Yadier Molina hit a two-run home run in the seventh inning to give Flaherty the win.
Down the Stretch
Flaherty’s next outing will likely be against the Brewers in the last series of the season. The Brewers are currently one game behind the Cardinals, tied with the Cincinnati Reds. The upcoming series against the Brewers will play a large part in determining who makes the postseason. Though a stellar performance from Flaherty would give the team a boost, the Cardinals’ lack of offensive production is troubling. The Cardinals need Flaherty to pitch like he did in 2019. However, they also need the run support to back him up. Without either of those things, it will be difficult for the Cardinals to compete down the stretch.
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