St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty searched for command of his fastball during much of this season as his ERA climbed over 6.00.
Flaherty (3-4, 5.24 ERA) finally found that command in his last outing, albeit in an 18-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday. The right-hander allowedjust three hits and struck out 10 in seven innings.
Flaherty will try to build on that effort Sunday when the Cardinals close their four-game home series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Cardinals have won two of the first three games of the set and 10 of their last 13 games overall.
Flaherty got in sync with catcher Willson Contreras against Milwaukee. He settled in by locating his fastball and setting up his slider and curveball.
"First off, get ahead with it and then go down, elevate when needed, and go to the big situations and not just have to spin everybody," Flaherty said. "Once we got two strikes, knowing what this guy might swing and miss (at). This is how we got to two strikes. How do we get strike three? Reading swings. Reading foul balls."
Trust issues with Contreras prompted manager Oliver Marmol to temporarily remove him as the primary catcher. That change came after Flaherty allowed the Los Angeles Angels to score 10 runs on nine hits in 2 1/3 innings on May 4.
It appears order has been restored.
"Whenever a pitcher can execute down and away, down and in, up and away, and up and in, it's going to be tough for a hitter to make contact," Contreras said. "When you have a pitcher command his fastball, it's going to be really hard for the hitters to stay on something else.
"It's going to be really fun for me to keeping calling games like that. I'm really glad I went back to work with him."
Flaherty dropped a 7-3 decision to the Dodgers on April 28 after allowing five runs (four earned) on seven hits and two walks in 4 2/3 innings. He is 1-2 with a 2.34 ERA in six career starts against them.
The Dodgers on Sunday will turn to Clayton Kershaw (6-3, 2.52), who will try to rebound from a 5-1 loss Tuesday to the Minnesota Twins -- his first loss at Dodger Stadium since June 16, 2021.
Kershaw needed 90 pitches to get 12 outs. He allowed two runs on seven hits and struck out seven in four innings.
"Just overall the stuff just wasn't as good as in Milwaukee," Kershaw said in comparison to his May 10 game there, in which he gave up only one run and struck out eight in seven innings of his team's 8-1 victory. ... "That happens sometimes."
Tuesday's game vs. Minnesota was Kershaw's first since the death of his mother.
"I just felt that he was more agitated, not in rhythm, and you can see his frustration even with that," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "I think there's an intensity with him every time he takes the mound. But I think that agitation isn't kind of typical for him."
Kershaw earned a 1-0 victory over the Cardinals on April 29 after scattering two hits and striking out eight over seven shutout innings. He is 10-5 with a 2.81 ERA in 20 career starts against them.
The Dodgers promoted right-hander Wander Suero from Triple-A Oklahoma City Saturday after lefty Julio Urias went on the injured list with a strained left hamstring.
--Field Level Media