The Orioles acquired Jack Flaherty for games like Friday’s. He failed to deliver.

When the Orioles traded for Jack Flaherty at the deadline, he became the only pitcher on the team with a playoff start on his resume.

His success in those big moments with the St. Louis Cardinals is one of the reasons Baltimore gave up three prospects Baseball America ranked in the organization’s top 20 for just a few months of Flaherty’s services.

“He’s experienced, and the accomplishments he’s made over there, [that] probably makes him our second-most experienced starter,” Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said after the trade deadline, noting 35-year-old Kyle Gibson as the lone Baltimore pitcher with more career innings than Flaherty.

Flaherty’s start Friday night against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Orioles’ biggest game of the season to date, was his best chance — and perhaps his last — to show he is the pitcher the club needed when it traded for him.

He didn’t.

“Rough stretches happen. Why would confidence change? Rough stretches happen,” Flaherty said. “You go through rough stretches no matter what. I wouldn’t put tonight into that same category. I threw the ball well at certain points.”

Elias said in early August that he hoped the Orioles could “get him hot in the next couple months.” Instead, Flaherty, who gave up three runs and was pulled after just four innings Friday, has been the club’s worst starting pitcher with a 7.11 ERA and 1.67 WHIP.

Since his sparkling debut, in which he twirled six innings of one-run ball in Toronto, Flaherty has failed to register a single quality start in six chances. He is 0-3 with an 8.42 ERA during that stretch.

Flaherty wasn’t the deadline splash other teams made, which is why the Orioles didn’t have to part ways with one of the gems of their farm system to get him; each of the prospects dealt ranked outside their top 10. But Flaherty was solid for the Cardinals in the first half, posting a 4.43 ERA in his first healthy season since his dominant 2019 campaign. On the season, he has a 5.03 ERA.

Adam Wainwright, the veteran leader of the Cardinals’ rotation, said earlier this week he’s seen “greatness from Jack” when he has his command and swing-and-miss breaking balls at the same time. In 2019, a 23-year-old Flaherty finished fourth in National League Cy Young Award voting and started three playoff games for a St. Louis team that went to the NL Championship Series, including a six-inning, one-run gem in Game 5 of the NL Division Series. The following year, he allowed just one run in six innings in the final game of the wild-card round for his third quality start in four playoff outings.

“Jack’s a big-game performer,” Wainwright said Wednesday, the same day Drew Rom, one of three prospects Baltimore traded for Flaherty, pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings to beat the Orioles. “Jack’s comfortable in those big spots and wants those big spots. He actually excels in those better than games that are not big spots.”

The right-hander was superb through his first three innings Friday, showing flashes to his 2019 days — or at least the pitcher he was in his initial start for the Orioles.

Manager Brandon Hyde said before the game he was hoping Flaherty would have the stuff he had back in that start against the Blue Jays, and he did as he struck out four in the first three innings.

“First time through the order, that was the best stuff he’s shown,” Hyde said after the 7-1 loss.

But, as has happened in every start since that one in Toronto, Flaherty unraveled, allowing two runs in a 32-pitch fourth and the first two batters of the fifth to reach.

“It’s a good team,” he said. “I made some good pitches. They put some good swings on some good pitches.”

A night after Hyde let ace Kyle Bradish pitch to a left-handed hitter with two outs in the seventh of a tie game, the skipper yanked Flaherty with no outs in the fifth as the Orioles trailed 2-0. That decision was relatively obvious given the 27-year-old’s recent struggles and the importance of the American League East contest. But it was a stark contrast to the trust he showed in Flaherty’s first start against the Blue Jays when Hyde let the veteran work out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth.

Hyde noted the situations for the two games weren’t similar, with Friday’s against a team nipping at the Orioles’ heels with just over two weeks remaining. But starts like Friday’s are ones the Orioles can’t afford too many more of down the stretch, especially in the postseason.

“We’ve got a short amount of time left, and we’re navigating kind of as we go here and taking it kind of day by day with everything,” Hyde said when asked if Flaherty’s success the first time through the order gives the team confidence to continue giving him the ball every week.

Hyde said before the game it “would be great” to have someone with Flaherty’s playoff experience to start big games as the franchise nears its first playoff berth since 2016. Flaherty is making it harder for Hyde to continue doing so.


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