ST. LOUIS — The Phillies watched video, studied data and scouting reports. They still had no answers for St. Louis Cardinals rookie right-hander Jack Flaherty on Sunday afternoon.
OK, they had one answer as Rhys Hoskins hit just his second homer in the last 24 games in the fourth inning to give the Phillies a brief lead. Otherwise, the day belonged to Flaherty and the Cardinals, who beat the Phillies, 5-1, at Busch Stadium as the teams split a four-game series (see first take). The Phillies are 26-18, 1½ games behind first-place Atlanta in the National League East.
Flaherty, 22, was selected 34th overall in the 2014 draft, 27 slots behind Aaron Nola. In his ninth big-league start, he out-pitched the Phillies’ ace for his first big-league win. Flaherty threw a full mix of pitches but featured mostly a fastball and slider. He struck out 13 in 7 2/3 innings. He threw 120 pitches, gave up two hits and a walk and got 24 swinging strikes, a dozen on sliders.
“He was tremendous today,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Sometimes you have to tip your cap to the other guy. He located his fastball and slider and kept us off balance with a really gritty performance.
“I think it always matters when a team has a lack of familiarity with a pitcher, but we do our homework. We had all watched him extensively. We knew what he had and what he brought to the table. We knew his minor-league history. So we were prepared and he just beat us. He was good today.”
Carlos Santana concurred.
“He had very good command of the breaking ball,” Santana said. “It was the first time we’d seen him. He threw great. We’ll see what happens the next time we face him.”
A couple of notable Phillies’ streaks were halted. Nola’s string of 13 straight starts (dating to Sept. 7) of allowing no more than three earned runs in a start ended as he gave up seven hits and four runs in six innings.
Odubel Herrera’s streak of reaching base safely died at 45 consecutive games, 11 shy of Mike Schmidt’s team record. Ted Williams owns the all-time record at 84. Joe DiMaggio ranks second at 74 and Williams is also third at 73.
“What an incredible accomplishment,” Kapler said. “I was looking at the list before the game of guys who’ve reached base in that vicinity and, wow, there’s some Hall of Famers and perennial All-Stars on that list so he’s in good company. It’s nice to still have somebody on our club with an on-base streak in Cesar Hernandez (24), so now we shift our attention to rooting for that to keep going.”
Herrera still leads the National League in hitting at .344.
“That’s part of the game,” he said. “At some point, the streak had to end. Now I’m looking forward to starting a new streak.”
Though he left several balls over the plate that were hit well, Nola did not pitch badly. He had little margin for error given the way Flaherty pitched and he was not helped by his defense. Santana made a costly throwing error for the second straight game. The Phils made six errors in the series. They will have to clean that up in their showdown with Atlanta for first place in the NL East. The series begins Monday night at Citizens Bank Park (see story).
“We can play a tighter brand of defense,” Kapler said. “We are a good, athletic defense. We can pick it up a notch. We’re better than we showed out there on defense in general.”