Jack Flaherty returns as Cardinals face Royals

National Sports

One weekend after playing a three-game series in St. Louis, the Cardinals and Royals square off for a three-game series in Kansas City in a battle between the two teams from the “Show Me State.”

The two clubs will open the series Friday night with Jack Flaherty (8-1, 2.90 ERA) pitching for the Cardinals and Mike Minor (8-10, 5.39) on the mound for the Royals. Flaherty will be making his return from the injured list. He has not pitched since May 31 due to a left oblique injury.

Kansas City manager Mike Matheny says it’s possible to root for both clubs when they’re not playing each other. He spent five years playing for the Cardinals and seven more managing them before taking over the Royals last season.

“There’s nothing wrong with having an American League and a National League favorite team,” he said sheepishly. “Some people think that’s heresy when you’re considering an intrastate rivalry.”

The Cardinals took two of the three games in St. Louis. After a two-hour rain delay in the other game, the Royals scored in the ninth to claim the victory.

While the Royals’ “field of dreams” was a peaceful pasture away from the baseball diamond Thursday, the Cardinals come in fresh off a three-game sweep of the Pirates in Pittsburgh, capped by a 7-6 victory.

Flaherty injured his oblique while pitching, but he aggravated it while hitting, which makes his debut in an American League city — with the designated hitter — an easy decision.

“He’s just now in a hitting progression that would have kind of synced up where he would actually be more aggressive in that first time out,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “We didn’t feel really comfortable with him being full-go. You can say what you want, ‘Oh, just go bunt.’ But the situation of the game dictates when you have to hit for him if he’s throwing well. We just wanted to be fair to him.”

Flaherty is 3-0 with a 0.95 ERA in three career starts against the Royals.

Minor, meanwhile, has been the lone starter over the age of 26 for the Royals. The 33-year-old has been a steadying presence in the otherwise youthful rotation. He’s been up and down, with a little more down than up, but manager Mike Matheny knows Minor will be there when his number is called.

Minor’s last start also came against the Cardinals. He took the loss in the series opener in St. Louis, allowing four runs on seven hits in five innings.

“I felt like we had the game plan, and then I feel like they did a good job of knowing me and watching video, maybe, and knowing what I like to do,” Minor said after the game. “They were sitting on stuff, looking for things. They did a good job of that, of making contact and making hard contact.”

Minor is 2-3 with a 6.11 ERA all-time against the Cardinals. He’s started in six of his eight appearances against St. Louis.

–Field Level Media

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