Good morning! I hope I find you readers as stressed and excited and nervous and anxious (and did I say EXCITED?) as I am for game 5 today.
We start today as we started game 2, at least as it pertains to pitching matchups, with Mike Foltynewicz and Jack Flaherty on the mound.
Prior to game 2, I said that Foltynewicz needed to utilize his offspeed pitches more often than he had in the prior two months (8.4% usage) to be effective. Folty, who obviously didn't read my piece, turned to it just 5 times in 81 pitches (a 6.2% usage rate), getting one of them called a ball, two of them called strikes, one of them fouled off, and one swinging strike on them. None of them were put in play and 4 out of 5 helped his cause.
His curve had also been effective over the prior two months and he turned to that pitch 16% of the time (compared to 13% in the prior two months) last week. His 13 curve balls produced 5 outs on balls in play, two ground outs and three fly outs. It produced zero hits. He threw 5 of them for balls and 8 for strikes. Out of the strikes, as I already mentioned 5 were put in play for outs. The other three had one fouled off and two swinging strikes.
All in all, Folty pitched an incredible game and ended up getting his team the win. To vary his repertoire a bit more, I wouldn't be surprised to see the curves and offspeed pitches represent a larger percentage of pitch selection today - unless the Braves plan on using him for a shorter amount of time and bullpenning a bit.
Flaherty's fastball has been hit the hardest with a .250 xwOBA allowed. His two breaking pitches are at .106 (curve) and .172 (slider). Incredible.
That's what I said before game 2 about Flaherty's offerings the past two months. I went on to add that he might want to use those secondary pitches more as the Braves had pounded similar fastballs recently.
Sure enough, Flaherty only threw 47.9% fastballs last week and they got beat around a little bit. Of the 56 fastballs, 23 were called balls (41%) and 8 were called strikes. That leaves 25 more fastballs that were swung at. Out of those 25 swung at, 6 were swinging strikes, 7 were fouled off, and 11 were put in play (I'm missing one). Of the 11 put into play, 5 went for singles and one went for a homer.
When it comes to the curves and sliders, he threw 61 of those - over 50% of his pitches. He gave up one single and one double on 9 balls in play. He threw only 17 of them for balls (28%) and 8 were called strikes. An additional 9 balls were fouled off. 17 balls were swung at and missed. His breaking stuff worked wonders against the Braves lineup. He could have relied on it even more, perhaps.
All that being said...you guys...just sit back, watch, enjoy the game. Second time around for both pitchers, in the same park, in a week's span? The game within the game is afoot. I'm EXCITED. You should be too. It might be the last Cardinals game of the year. Hopefully not, but just sit back and enjoy it.