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Why did the Cardinals let ace Jack Flaherty throw 100 pitches in a game decided after the first inning?

Yahoo! Sports logo Yahoo! Sports 10/9/2019 Jack Baer
a man throwing a baseball on a field: Jack Flaherty could have exited early on Wednesday The Cardinals still gave him a full workload. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) © Provided by Oath Inc. Jack Flaherty could have exited early on Wednesday The Cardinals still gave him a full workload. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

It’s not often that you see all suspense of a winner-take-all game in the MLB playoffs deflated by the end of the first inning, but that’s pretty much what happened Wednesday during Game 5 of the NLDS between the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals batted around and then some in the first inning, hanging a postseason-record 10 runs on the Braves and increasing their lead to 13-0 in the third inning.

Obviously, that was great for the Cardinals. However, that didn’t stop them from making an odd choice on the pitching side of a game that had been all but decided.

Cardinals let Jack Flaherty throw 100 pitches with double-digit lead

While the bats got it done for the Cardinals on Wednesday, their starter Jack Flaherty was the reason to be confident going into the game. If there was a Cy Young for the second half of a season, the right-hander would have been a shoo-in. Flaherty posted a 0.91 ERA and 124 strikeouts in 99.1 innings after the All-Star break.

Flaherty was the hottest pitcher in baseball entering the playoffs, but the Cardinals unexpectedly didn’t need an ace on Wednesday. They just needed a pitcher to eat innings. Flaherty was definitely up for that job, but so was everyone else in the Cardinals bullpen.

That situation led some to expect Flaherty might only see a few innings of action before getting pulled to keep him fresh for approaching NLCS.

The Cardinals let him pitch as much as he could instead, eventually pulling him from the game after six innings of work and 104 pitches.

That is definitely an interesting choice on the part of Cardinals manager Mike Shildt. Because Flaherty was given a full workload, the earliest he could reasonably pitch is Game of the NLCS on Monday. Had he pitched, say, two innings, he might have been able to start even earlier.

That’s still a fine problem for the Cardinals to have, but it’s puzzling at a time when teams are doing everything possible to get an edge in the playoffs.

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