MLB: Jack Flaherty debuts as Cards go for 4-game sweep of Pirates

Starting pitcher Jack Flaherty will make his season debut for the St. Louis Cardinals as they host the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday to close their four-game series.

The Cardinals won the first three games at Busch Stadium — 7-5 on Monday, and 3-1 and 9-1 in Tuesday’s doubleheader. They have won eight of their last nine home games.

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“These guys, on all sides of it, are playing really good baseball,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “Some of the details that are going on right now, with the baserunning and the defense, backing up bases, there are so many little things going on outside of just driving in runs and getting outs that’s impressive. It’s going to add up to a lot of wins.”

Flaherty (9-2, 3.22 ERA in 2021) has been sidelined all season by shoulder bursitis. The Cardinals originally scheduled him for one more rehabilitation start at Triple-A Memphis with a 75-pitch limit as he continued his comeback.

Instead, Flaherty will face the Pirates with a 60-pitch limit. Andre Pallante, who was originally scheduled to start this game, will move to the bullpen for one day and then shift back into the rotation.

“I wouldn’t say I was getting my way, but they’ve seen my stuff and how I have looked and how it plays,” Flaherty said.

“He was very adamant about a couple of things — mainly physically and mentally increasing, not just the workload, but the intensity of what he’s doing, and that can only happen here,” Marmol said. “Physically he feels better than he’s ever felt so he’d rather increase the intensity than the workload, that’s what we’ll do.”

Flaherty believes he has turned his shoulder clock back to 2019, when he posted a 2.75 ERA. The Cardinals’ data supports that positive assessment.

“All the underlying tracking is that Jack is Jack,” Marmol said.

That’s not good news for the Pirates, since Flaherty is 8-1 with a 2.22 ERA in 11 career starts against them.

The Pirates have plunged into a nine-game losing streak. They are 1-8 against the Cardinals in 2022 and 8-20 against them the last two seasons.

The Pirates will counter Flaherty with rookie right-hander Roansy Contreras (1-1, 2.57), who will be making his sixth career start.

In his last start, Contreras allowed four runs (three earned) on eight hits and one walk in 4 2/3 innings during a 4-3 loss at Atlanta on Friday.

“I thought his stuff was actually good,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “He just missed in the middle of the plate with some good hitters. If you miss in the middle of the plate at this level, you’re gonna get hit hard.”

Contreras faced the Cardinals earlier this season, allowing two runs on two hits and a walk in 1 2/3 innings of relief during a 6-2 Pirates loss on April 9.

Contreras will need to pay particular attention to Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who is 9-for-12 with a double, four homers, six runs and nine RBIs in the first three games of the series.

–Field Level Media

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