KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Jack Flaherty pitched six innings of two-hit ball in his return from an oblique injury, and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Kansas City Royals 6-0 on Friday night.
Nolan Arenado hit his 23rd homer for St. Louis, which earned its fourth straight win. Tyler O’Neill and Lars Nootbaar also connected.
Flaherty (9-1) struck out five and walked none in his first big league start since May 31. T.J. McFarland then got six outs, Giovanny Gallegos worked the eighth and Ryan Helsley finished the five-hitter.
“Expectations are always high, and he was tremendous tonight,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “Jack was in control and he hit right where we wanted with his pitch count. It was a perfect outing and we’re glad he’s back.”
The 25-year-old Flaherty had been sidelined by a left oblique strain.
“I just didn’t try to do too much tonight,” Flaherty said. “Once I got that first strike in there everything felt normal. I missed competing with these guys and being a part of the team was what I missed the most.”
Arenado and O’Neill hit back-to-back homers in the fourth. It was No. 19 for O’Neill.
Arenado drove in Tommy Edman with a sacrifice fly in the fifth, and the Cardinals added two more in the eighth against Wade Davis. Yadier Molina had a run-scoring single, and Paul DeJong tacked on a sacrifice fly.
Nootbaar connected for his second homer in the ninth, a 441-foot drive into the fountains in right field.
“Jack’s been a great asset for us the past few years so it’s a good feeling to have him back,” Shildt said. “Everyone has a little more pep in their step.”
Kansas City left-hander Mike Minor (8-11) permitted three runs and six hits in six innings. He struck out seven and walked one.
“Overall, I thought his stuff looked good, just unfortunate we couldn’t get anything going offensively,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “Flaherty looked sharp coming back from injury and didn’t make many mistakes.”
The Cardinals are three games over .500 for the first time since June 5.
WHIT’S BEEN STREAKING
Whit Merrifield played in his 421st consecutive game, tying Alcides Escobar for the longest streak in Royals history. It comes just two days after he tied Carlos Beltran’s record of 33 consecutive stolen bases.
Cardinals: Flaherty was activated off the 60-day IL, and LHP Wade LeBlanc (left elbow) was placed on the 10-day IL.
The Cardinals send Jon Lester (3-6, 5.57 ERA) to the mound against Brad Keller (7-11, 5.79 ERA) for the second game of the series.
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