KANSAS CITY(AP) – The two words that Cardinals manager Mike Shildt kept using to describe the reasons behind Jack Flaherty’s phenomenal pitching success since the All-Star break were conviction and command.
The Royals probably have a few choice words to describe Flaherty, too.
The right-hander tossed seven innings of three-hit ball in yet another dominant performance Tuesday night, and Tommy Edman and Paul Goldschmidt drove in the only runs as St. Louis edged Kansas City 2-0 to open a two-game series between the cross-state rivals.
“That’s been Jack. That’s who he’s been,” Shildt said. “Just outstanding pitching.”
Flaherty (6-6) struck out seven with a lone walk in his sixth stingy start, though he has just two wins to show for them. He’s allowed 20 hits with 50 strikeouts and 0.70 ERA over that span.
“He’s been absolutely on fire lately,” Edman said. “Jack was awesome again, as usual.”
Flaherty headed for the showers after throwing 110 pitches, and the St. Louis bullpen nailed down the win. Andrew Miller worked around a single in the eighth and retired Alex Gordon in the ninth, and Carlos Martínez got the final two outs, completing the four-hitter while earning his 13th save.
Glenn Sparkman (3-8) did everything the Royals asked over six sharp innings. He allowed two runs, one of them earned, but still hasn’t won since a July 16 shutout of the White Sox.
“With every start I’m getting a little better. Still shaky in the first through third,” he said. “But overall I felt pretty good today. Definitely a lot of things to work on still.”
The most spirit the woebegone Royals showed all night came when Kolten Wong legged out an infield single in the fifth, and manager Ned Yost complained about interference on the throw. His heated exchange with plate umpire Pat Hoberg escalated until first base ump Greg Gibson tossed him.
It was the third time this season Yost has been ejected.
“In all fairness,” Yost said, “they gave me every opportunity to stop arguing.”
Both Cardinals runs were scored in scrappy fashion. The first came when Dexter Fowler reached on an error in the first, advanced on a groundout and scored on Goldschmidt’s sacrifice fly, and the second came on Edman’s single in the third — just before he was caught between bases to end the inning.
The way Flaherty was going, that was all St. Louis needed.
He gave up a two-out double to Hunter Dozier and intentionally walked Jorge Soler in the first, but got Cheslor Cuthbert to pop out and end the inning. Flaherty proceeded to retire 12 more in succession before Nicky Lopez led off the sixth inning with a base hit.
Flaherty wound up getting a double play and striking out Dozier to end that inning.
“His fastball’s got life. Slider is tight. Good arm action with pitches,” the Royals’ Whit Merrifield said. “He locates well, moves it around. He doesn’t miss a whole lot. When he does miss it’s not in the zone. So he does a good job of keeping you on your toes.”
The Cardinals called up touted prospect Randy Arozarena from Triple-A Memphis, though he was not in the starting lineup. The speedy outfielder was hitting .368 and had reached base safely in 37 consecutive games for the Redbirds. “I knew it was coming,” Arozarena said. “I knew it was close.”
St. Louis fired assistant hitting coach Mark Budaska during the day off Monday and promoted Memphis hitting coach Jobel Jimenez to the big league club. “I ultimately made the decision,” said Shildt, who cited “philosophical differences” in making the move.
The Cardinals placed outfielder José Martínez on the injured list after he collided with the wall in Pittsburgh on Sunday. Martínez sprained the AC joint in his right shoulder. “I think a week will go by and he’ll get out there and start swinging the bat again,” Shildt said. “He’ll be back as soon or as close to that 10-day mark as possible.”