The player who makes Cardinals a legit World Series contender

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Jack Flaherty #22 of the St. Louis Cardinals delivers during the first inning of the Opening Day game against the Pittsburgh Piratesat Busch Stadium on July 24, 2020 in St. Louis, Missouri. The 2020 season had been postponed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Scott Kane/Getty Images)
Jack Flaherty #22 of the St. Louis Cardinals delivers during the first inning of the Opening Day game against the Pittsburgh Piratesat Busch Stadium on July 24, 2020 in St. Louis, Missouri. The 2020 season had been postponed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Scott Kane/Getty Images) /
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Meet Jack Flaherty, the player who showed on Monday why he makes the St. Louis Cardinals a legitimate World Series threat.

At this point, the St. Louis Cardinals look destined to win the National League Central. They have pulled away from the Milwaukee Brewers, leading the division by 7.5 games, and have an MLB-best 25-8 record since the trade deadline.

But an unexpected player makes the Cardinals an even stronger threat to dethrone the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL. It’s Jack Flaherty.

Flaherty, of course, just returned from his second extended stint on the Injured List and in his first game back, looked every bit the starting pitcher that the Cardinals believed could head their rotation. In five innings against the Washington Nationals, Flaherty allowed only one run on six hits while walking one batter and striking out six in 91 pitches (59 strikes).

Most importantly, Flaherty came out of the outing healthy. He touched 96-97 mph while regularly commanding his breaking pitches. Obviously, Flaherty needs to do this in multiple outings to prove that he is indeed back. But it was perhaps as encouraging of a first start as both he and the team could have asked for.

And if it’s a sign of things to come, a revamped starting rotation with Jordan Montgomery and Jose Quintana becomes even more potent, and will give them numerous arms capable of eating major innings for the postseason. Come playoff time, pitching is what often wins championships, and the Cardinals would have plenty of it — and not just that. Quality options with elite upside.

That’s what Flaherty is. The Cardinals weren’t sure if he’d come back following his setback earlier in the season. But now that he is back, and already showing signs of being a frontline starting pitcher, their ceiling for the 2022 season has grown even taller.

And a special season in which Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright will all be saying goodbye to MLB could have a magical ending.

Next. The St. Louis Cardinals are the Perfect Trade Destination for Mike Trout. dark

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