Jack Flaherty will start for the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday against the host San Diego Padres in the winner-take-all third game of their National League wild-card series.
For the Padres, the pitcher will be anybody and everybody.
“I have no idea what we’re going to do with our pitching,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said after his club hit five home runs in the late innings Thursday night to rally from a four-run deficit and hold on to defeat the Cardinals 11-9.
“We’re going to figure it out tonight … and it’s going to be a long night.”
With Nos. 1 and 2 starters Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger already out of at least the first round of the playoffs due to injuries, Friday’s rubber match already looked to be a “bullpen game” for San Diego.
And that was before Padres starters Chris Paddack and Zach Davies lasted a combined 4 1/3 innings in the first two games. Tingler used eight relievers Wednesday and seven Tuesday, with the bullpen absorbing 13 2/3 innings. Six San Diego relievers worked in both games.
Right-hander Garrett Richards (2-2, 4.03 ERA in the regular season) and left-hander Adrian Morejon (2-2, 4.66) would be the leading candidates to work as the opener Friday, but Richards worked each of the past two nights and Morejon pitched 1 1/3 innings Thursday.
“My guess is we’re going to get a great effort from whomever we use, and it will be a number of guys,” Tingler said. “The bullpen has been prepared and ready. They kept us in the game.”
While the Padres will be pitching by committee, the Cardinals will look for Flaherty to go as deep as possible.
In the sixth, seventh and eighth innings Thursday night, Cardinals relievers gave up nine runs on nine hits and three walks. The barrage included five Padres homers — including two apiece from Fernando Tatis Jr. and Wil Myers, who joined Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig of the 1932 New York Yankees as the only teammates to each have two homers in a postseason game.
“We’re confident in Jack and looking forward to this,” Cardinals manager Mike Schildt said. “We’ve been playing under pressure for a long time now.”
The Cardinals, of course, had to play 53 games in 44 days — including 11 doubleheaders — just to reach the playoffs.
The 6-foot-4, 24-year-old Flaherty hasn’t been the pitcher he was in 2019, when he finished fourth in the National League Cy Young Award voting and 13th on the Most Valuable Player ballot. He was 11-8 in 33 starts last year with a 2.75 ERA, a league-leading 0.968 WHIP and a .192 opponents’ batting average. He had 231 strikeouts against 55 walks in 196 1/3 innings.
This season, Flaherty was 4-3 with a 4.91 ERA in nine starts, posting a 1.215 WHIP and a .221 opponents’ batting average. In 40 1/3 innings, Flaherty walked 16 and struck out 49.
Flaherty was hoping he wasn’t going to be needed Friday, that the Cardinals already would have advanced to the NL Division Series.
“That’d be the case no matter what, whether I was pitching Game 1, 2 or 3, the hope would be, let’s win the first two,” he said prior to Game 2. “Whoever’s pitching that third game, well let’s just win the first two.”
Flaherty is 1-0 in three career starts against the Padres with a 1.10 ERA, a 1.163 WHIP and a .200 opponents’ batting average. In his only start at Petco Park, in 2017, Flaherty gave up a run on three hits and four walks with four strikeouts in five innings.
Including the first two games of the wild-card series, the Padres are 22-12 at Petco Park this season.
–Field Level Media