So far on their three-city, nine-game trek through Atlanta, Cincinnati and Baltimore, the Cardinals have taken three of four, outscoring their foes 35-24.
The Cardinals (62-79) raced out to a 6-0 lead on Friday as Willson Contreras belted a three-run homer estimated at 440 feet in the first inning and then Luken Baker hit a three-run double in the third.
On the pitching side, six relievers combined for 5 1/3 scoreless innings to help beat a Reds team that started to rally against starter Drew Rom.
Matthew Liberatore earned the win with three strikeouts in 1 1/3 innings.
Left-hander Zack Thompson (4-5, 3.91 ERA) will make his sixth start for the Cardinals on Saturday after making 16 relief appearances earlier this season. Last Sunday in St. Louis, Thompson earned a win after allowing three runs and seven hits over seven innings in a 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. He struck out six without walking a batter.
Thompson will be making his first career start — but fifth appearance — against the Reds after producing four scoreless relief appearances against Cincinnati last season as a rookie.
“The bullpen forced me to simplify, and I don’t mean on the mound,” Thompson said. “With a five-day schedule as a starter, I could overthink things. I could go run too much or throw too much or spend that time tinkering with things, working on things. There’s no time for that if you’re going to be ready as a reliever. I learned how to simplify everything and take that into starting.”
The Reds (73-70) will counter with rookie right-hander Carson Spiers. The 25-year-old Clemson product made his major league debut on Sunday against the Chicago Cubs, and he allowed three runs on five hits in four innings, striking out seven and walking two.
Spiers left with a 4-3 lead, but the bullpen imploded en route to a 15-7 loss.
“The adrenaline wore off in the third, and it was more of just go time,” Spiers said. “I felt like my pitches were kind of more sharp, whether that was being out in front of them or just being more relaxed on the mound. That third inning is definitely where I need to be.”
Spiers was pressed into action last week as the Reds had four pitchers — including two starters — land on the COVID injured list. Hunter Greene is due to return Sunday, while Brandon Williamson is expected back sometime next week.
“I’m just going to take it all in. I’m not going to worry about that,” Spiers said. “Whether they keep me here for however long COVID lasts or whatever the decision is, that’s out of my control. I can’t do anything about it. I’m just going to work my tail off and let everything else happen.”
When Spiers takes the mound, it will mark the 48th time this season that a rookie pitcher had started for Cincinnati.
—Field Level Media
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