Jack Flaherty struggles, Cardinals losing streak reaches six games

ST. LOUIS — Just outside the Cardinals clubhouse at Busch Stadium is the team’s video room, and from that general area emanated two cries of frustration after Thursday afternoon’s loss. Seconds after the explosion, pitcher Jack Flaherty entered the dressing area. In the end, he was just getting started, delivering a critique of his performance and his team’s approach to attacking batters with two strikes.

Flaherty, who is considered a stopper for the Cardinals’ staff, had a lot to say after giving up 10 runs, nine hits and a walk, as well as another two-strike homer in the 11-7 victory for the Cardinals. Angels on St. Louis at Busch Stadium. The Cards lost for the sixth straight time, allowing their third sweep of the season.

After taking an early 2-0 lead, Flaherty allowed four runs in the second inning, including three on Luis Rengifo’s homer on a rolling 76 mph curveball in a 2-2 count. It was the 19th worst two-hit home run in MLB allowed by a Cardinals pitcher.

He came out in the next frame after being hit in the left hand by a returnee from Rengifo, ending his day at 2 1/3 innings.

“If I was average, or made an average start, we would win this game, because the guys came out and swung it and gave me two runs,” said Flaherty, whose ERA went from 3.94 to 6.29 after the worst performance of his MLB career. “So I can’t go and set up a shutdown [inning] after getting two runs there, and I give up the home run.

“Things keep unraveling. We have to do a better job as a staff, in general, and I have to do a better job. i just take it [to mean] it wasn’t good enough.

The Cardinals had hoped to use that homestand to get their season back on track after a 2-8 West Coast road trip to close April. But the schedule flipped and the Angels offered little relief as the visitors completed their first sweep of the Cards in franchise history. In 10 series so far, St. Louis is just 2-7-1, 10 games behind in a division it was supposed to win. This led to boos from an increasingly concerned fan base.

Paul Goldschmidt, who had two hits and two RBIs after the Cardinals fell 11-2, said he had no problem with fans venting their frustration. The players also had much higher expectations than a 10-22 record and the franchise’s worst start in 50 seasons.

“One thing I love about our fans is that they have high expectations,” Goldschmidt said. “I’ve said it before also when things are going well and badly. Look at the performance. It doesn’t lie.

Flaherty, who can become a free agent at the end of the season, hoped to regain the command he had in 2019 and the start of season 21 and become the kind of ace the Cardinals could count on to stop a losing streak. . He did it two weeks ago in Seattle, throwing well enough to snap a two-game skid. But Thursday’s outing resulted in a 13th loss in the last 16 games for St. Louis, which now holds the NL’s worst record.

“Of course, everyone is [expletive] frustrated,” fumed Flaherty. “It is what it is, but we are much better than that. That’s the problem – we know we’re better than that and we’ll get through it. At some point, we’ll figure it out. I was hoping it would be today and I was hoping for a good start, but I didn’t.

The problem in particular, Flaherty said, is how the Cardinals’ pitchers approach the two-strike count. The team ranks last in MLB with a two-strike average (.218) and home runs (19) allowed. In all, nine St. Louis pitchers allowed two-hit homers, with Steven Matz (five), Jake Woodford (four), Miles Mikolas (three) and Flaherty (two) leading.

Receiver Yadier Molina retired after the 2022 season, and pitching coach Mike Maddux left for the Rangers to be closer to his home in Texas. The Cardinals signed free agent catcher Willson Contreras to replace Molina and promoted pitching strategist Dusty Blake to pitching coach. These moves have yet to yield favorable pitching results.

“We need to do a better job of keeping guys away,” Flaherty said. “Whether it’s throwing the pitches that are actually going to put the guys away or executing better. …I just saw that they had [nine] Hit me with two strikes, so you just gotta do a better job of execution.

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