Redbirds' Flaherty has strikeout stuff working

Cardinals No. 2 prospect fans career-best 13 in matinee victory

Jack Flaherty has posted two double-digit strikeout performances in his first five starts of the season. (Jamie Harms/MiLB.com)

By Tyler Maun / MiLB.com | May 9, 2018 5:30 PM

Jack Flaherty wasn't happy with his outing five days ago, so on Wednesday, he wielded that motivation as a tool to stymie opposing hitters.

St. Louis' No. 2 prospect struck out a career-high 13 without issuing a walk, allowing two runs on six hits over 6 2/3 innings, as Triple-A Memphis knocked off Oklahoma City, 7-2.

Video: Flaherty notches 13th K for Redbirds

"The last game out, I went out and walked four, wasn't really commanding the zone at all," Flaherty said of his May 4 start, a loss at Nashville. "This time out I really just made the adjustment of attacking guys. I think that's been a big key, just going out and attacking, trusting the defense to make plays, and they've done that all year.

"I just felt like as the game went on, I was able to command my fastball away and move it in and out. Really, I was just able to command and get ahead of guys and execute when I needed to."

Flaherty allowed two runs driven in by Oklahoma City's Donovan Solano, who knocked a solo shot to left in the first and singled to center to drive in a run in the third. After Solano's second hit, the righty buckled down. The Redbirds' offense put Flaherty in front with a three-run third, an inning in which Flaherty walked and scored on a sacrifice fly by No. 3 Cardinals prospect Tyler O'Neill.


Gameday box score


"The command came along as we got deeper into the game," Flaherty said. "Once you get a lead, you really just want to go out and attack. You really want to make that lead hold up. Whenever your team's able to get a lead for you, it makes pitching easier because you're able to go out and attack more."

Throughout the afternoon, baseball's No. 35 overall prospect littered his line with strikeouts, including a stretch of seven straight K's from the last out of the third through the fifth.

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"It's just execution," he said. "[Catcher] Steven Baron, he called a really good game, and he received really well today the whole game. It just comes down to executing pitches when you really need to. Some days you're going to punch guys out. Other days those hopefully lead to outs. Today was just one of those days."

For the third time in five Triple-A starts this year, Flaherty pitched into the seventh. After Oklahoma City loaded the bases with one out, Flaherty whiffed Mike Ahmed for the final out of his afternoon. Reliever Andrew Morales got Henry Ramos to fly out to center, wiping out the threat. Memphis has rebounded from a four-game skid to win its last three.

"We had a little bit of a rough patch where we weren't playing our best baseball," Flaherty said. "We've had a lot of movement between guys going up and down. I think guys are just starting to get in another groove and come into their own. [Luke Voit] had a really big day today. O'Neill yesterday hit a ball further than I've ever seen before. Hitters are starting to come around. Guys are playing really well in the field. Pitching, all of us are continuing to try to attack and get ahead of guys."

Voit doubled three times and drove in a pair of runs on a 4-for-5 day in Wednesday's win. O'Neill went 0-for-4 but added his team-leading 24th RBI on a third-inning sacrifice fly.

Oklahoma City was unbeaten in its first 15 home games this year but has now lost three straight at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. While the Dodgers have lost just nine times all year, nearly half of those have been in games with early starts.

Flaherty's outing wasn't the only good news for Cardinals pitching talent on Wednesday. St. Louis' top prospect Alex Reyes is set to make his season debut Wednesday night for Class A Advanced Palm Beach. The right-hander, baseball's No. 18 overall prospect, is on the way back from 2017 Tommy John surgery.

"I'm happy for him," Flaherty said. "I'm hoping it goes well tonight. It's just good to see him back and healthy because we all know what he can do. We all know how special his arm is. To see him finally get back into a real game, throw a jersey on, go out there and compete against some other teams, it's exciting for all of us just to see him back and healthy. I'm excited, looking forward to seeing where he's at, but we all know how special he is."

Tyler Maun is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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