Even with 72 holds to his credit over the last three seasons, only a few at the time of the injury surmised that the loss of setup man Eric O’Flaherty might be the very thing that would cost the Atlanta Braves an opportunity at a pennant or even a World Series title. After Monday night, however, evidence suggests that is exactly what put an end to hopes of a championship around Atlanta.
Back on May 18, O’Flaherty was placed on the disabled list after suffering a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching arm. Coming off of back-to-back outstanding years that placed him among the very best late-inning hurlers in the game, the lefty had appeared in just 19 games in the 2013 season to that point but was well on the way to another solid campaign. Before the injury, he was sporting a 2.50 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and .188 batting average against.
Most already know that Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Juan Uribe smashed a game-winning two-run homer in the eighth inning of Game 4 of the NLDS. What proved to be the series-ending shot came off of a misplaced breaking ball by Braves right-handed relief pitcher David Carpenter.
As the Uribe home run sailed into the night, memories of O’Flaherty’s tenacity and ability to shut down opposing batters in order to bridge the gap to the ninth inning must have filled the heads of many fans. Considering the fact that the southpaw has only given up 11 round trippers in nearly 250 innings since 2009, it is tough to imagine the same heartbreaking result had he been on the mound.
One cannot say with any certainty if O’Flaherty’s presence would have changed the outcome of the series. Keep in mind, there was another game to be played had the Braves held on to their late 3-2 lead. The question is could the lefty have helped the team’s cause. Well, that is a certainty.