ST. LOUIS — Jack Flaherty pitched five effective innings for St. Louis in his first big league action since June, but the NL Central-leading Cardinals had their four-game winning streak stopped by Joey Meneses and the Washington Nationals 6-0 Monday.
“Jack was encouraging,” St. Louis manager Oliver Marmol said. “I thought he did a nice job. It looked good. He was poised. I’m looking forward to him taking the bump again.”
Meneses got three hits and fellow rookie C.J. Abrams had four to back five shutout innings from Aníbal Sánchez (2-5). Washington, which has the worst record in the majors, has won three in a row.
“We’re all swinging it pretty well. Felt good to get the win and keep it rolling,” Abrams said. “I’m swinging at strikes and putting good pitches into play. You know, see ball, hit ball.”
Flaherty (0-1) returned from the injured list after being sidelined by a right shoulder issue. In his first start since June 26, he allowed one run on six hits and a walk. He struck out six and hit a batter while throwing 91 pitches.
“Some good. Some bad,” Flahlerty said. “I made pitches when I needed to for the most part. I made some adjustments pitch to pitch. Mentally, I was a lot better.”
The 26-year-old Flaherty went 9-2 last season. He‘s been out for most of this year, including a stint on the IL from April 7-June 14. He made five rehab starts in the minors.
“This time, I ran with it,” Flaherty said. “I take the emotion or the adrenaline and not play it down. I didn’t try to suppress it. I was comfortable with my stuff. It’s been fun watching but it’s more fun to be a part of it.”
Sánchez gave up just two hits. It was his first start at Busch Stadium since he threw 7 2/3 no-hit innings in the opener of the 2019 NL Championship Series.
“That game was spectacular,” Sánchez said about the 2019 start. “That’s the year we won the World Series. Today is way different. I tried to be aggressive today and not let them get comfortable at the plate.”
In his last four starts, Sánchez has allowed just two runs on eight hits in 21 1/3 innings. The Nationals have won all those starts.
“We’ve got a pretty good team,” Sánchez said. “I know it doesn’t show in the numbers.”
Meneses is 40 for 118 (.339) since making his MLB debut Aug. 2. Keibert Ruiz homered, César Hernández added two hits and Lane Thomas drove in two runs against his former team.
“We’re playing good baseball right now,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. “If we catch the ball and throw strikes we’re going to be just fine. I love what I’m seeing right now. They’re starting to get it.”
St. Louis managed just three singles against three pitchers. Mason Thompson allowed one hit in three innings for his first big league save.
“That was awesome,” Thompson said. “It wasn’t something I woke up and expected to do today. I’m really happy with how I pitched.”
The Cardinals have won seven of their last nine games and 23 of 31.
Abrams, acquired from San Diego in the trade that moved Juan Soto from Washington, led off the third with a triple.
“Maybe I could have got four if I wasn’t fixing my helmet the whole time,” Abrams laughed.
Thomas followed with a double to go up 1-0.
“This is a special place,” said Thomas, who also drew two walks and was hit by a pitch. “I started my career here and I have a lot of good friends over there. For sure, I wanted to do well here.”
Washington added four runs in the sixth. St. Louis native Luke Voit drove in the final run with a sacrifice fly.
LABORING ON HOLIDAY
The loss left Cardinals are 0-3 on Labor Day against the Nationals. St. Louis lost 4-1 at RFK Stadium in 2006 and dropped a 4-3 contest in 10 innings at Nationals Park in 2018. That game also was started by Flaherty.
Cardinals: Activated Flaherty from the 60-Day injured list. … Optioned RHP Dakota Hudson to Triple-A Memphis. … Designated RHP Junior Fernández for assignment. Fernández appeared in 13 games in relief for the Cardinals this season with a 0-0 record and a 2.93 ERA.
Cardinals star Yadier Molina made his 2,098th career start at catcher, passing Carlton Fisk (1969-93) for second all-time in MLB history. Hall of Famer Iván Rodríguez (2,346) is the only catcher with more starts.
Nationals: DH Nelson Cruz (right knee contusion) is listed as day to day. Cruz has been out of the lineup since Sept. 3, the day after he made an early exit after fouling a ball off his right knee.
Cardinals: LHP Steven Matz (left MCL tear) will begin a minor league rehab stint Tuesday with Double-A Springfield. When he returns later this month, the Cardinals plan to use Matz out of the bullpen.
Nationals: RHP Paolo Espino (0-6, 4.22) will make his second start against the Cardinals this season and his first ever at Busch Stadium. He allowed four runs on seven hits in a July 30 game that Washington ended winning 7-6.
Cardinals: LHP José Quintana (4-6, 3.47) will be making his third start of the season against the Nationals and his first as a member of the Cardinals. The Nationals are one of five teams that he has no career wins against.
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