ATLANTA — This 2019 NLDS between the Cardinals and Braves is already a classic before a single pitch has even been thrown in the Game 5 finale.
All four of the games so far have been captivating and interesting, with the drama crescendo-ing in the late innings and giving us a memorable finish.
Now, it's time for the final act. And there's no better character to bring this series to a close than Jack Flaherty.
I wrote before his first start in Game 2 of this series that Flaherty needed to be the Cardinals' 'Jordan Binnington'. That he needed to be their guy to rise to the occasion and simply own the moment. Well, he has his chance.
Flaherty's Game 2 start was not quite as dominant as we had been accustomed to seeing him lately, but it was still really really good.
His seven inning, three run, eight strikeout performance was rendered moot by the Cardinals' inability to score literally any runs and the dominating performance by Atlanta's Mike Foltynewicz.
Save for a late Adam Duvall pinch-hit homer, and Flaherty's Game 2 start is another masterpiece.
Now, it's a re-match of Game 2 with both teams' seasons on the line.
The Cardinals are confident in their guy.
"We got our ace in there in Game 5," Yadier Molina said after Game 4. "That's what we want. We're going to be ready to play the game."
"The game's the same, it's just the magnitude of it that changes," Matt Carpenter said after Game 4. "The key is for us to go out there, not make too much of it, execute our game plan. Get a good start from Jack, which we know we will, and then be able to string some hits together against Foltynewicz... Just executing what we know we've done all year."
For the last four months or so, there hasn't been more of a sure bet starter in baseball than Flaherty. Now he gets the chance to add to his remarkable season by authoring a signature postseason moment.
But don't play up the mystique of Game 5 for Jack. To him it's just another day at the ballpark.
"My mindset doesn't change. Go out, have confidence, pitch with conviction and have conviction behind each pitch," Flaherty said after Game 4. "Every game like this right now is kind of like a winner-take-all, so going forward you look at it and it's another big game."
Another big game is right.
If the Cardinals win, they'll advance to the franchise's first NLCS since 2014. If they lose, it'll be a long offseason thinking about all the little things that went wrong in this series against the Braves.
Either way, the Cardinals are going down fighting with their ace on the hill.
He's an ace with ice in his veins and a growing ability to be absolutely unflappable regardless of the situation.
There are some guys you just look at and know they were born to be in the spotlight. Jack Flaherty is one of those guys, and Wednesday he'll take his spot under the biggest spotlight of his career.
Braves manager Brian Snitker really did sum it up best after Game 2: "The kid is something special. He's a horse."