St. Louis Cardinals left-hander Matthew Liberatore enjoyed the most successful start of his young career in his latest outing.
He will try to ride the momentum from that performance into a start against the visiting Oakland Athletics on Wednesday evening.
The Cardinals, who have won five of their past six games, will look for a three-game sweep. The A’s have dropped five in a row and seven of eight.
Liberatore (2-4, 5.72 ERA) held the Tampa Bay Rays to two hits in eight scoreless innings during a 5-2 victory Thursday. He struck out seven without issuing a walk.
“We talk about showing flashes about what he’s capable of doing,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “That was extremely impressive. That was fun right there, yeah.”
Trades and injuries have given Liberatore, 23, a chance to settle into the Cardinals‘ rotation.
“I’m going to do everything in my power given this opportunity to make the most of it,” he said, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Liberatore has worked with the Cardinals‘ field staff on the side to bump up his fastball velocity into the mid-90s.
“I feel like I was 91 mph, 93 mph when I was trying to throw hard,” Liberatore said. “Now that I’m moving better and I feel better where I’m at, I don’t feel like I’m trying to throw as hard as I am. It’s just something that happens because I’m moving the right way.”
Liberatore is set to oppose the A’s for the first time in his career.
Paul Blackburn (2-3, 4.52 ERA) will get the ball for Oakland on Wednesday. The right-hander is coming off an 8-2 loss at Washington on Friday, when he allowed four runs on eight hits and four walks in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out three.
During his three starts before that, Blackburn allowed just three runs on 16 hits in 17 1/3 innings (1.56 ERA), striking out 19 and walking six. He has never faced St. Louis.
The Cardinals beat the A’s 7-5 on Monday and 6-2 on Tuesday. In the latest victory, Nolan Arenado went 4-for-5 with a homer while Tommy Edman and Jordan Walker also went deep.
As the rebuilding A’s continue testing their top prospects down the stretch, rookie Lawrence Butler will see plenty of duty in center field. He made a diving catch that triggered a double play on Monday, and he hit his first career homer on Tuesday, a two-run blast.
“I’m really just trying to hit it where it’s pitched,” said Butler, who made his major league debut on Friday. “If they throw it out there, I’m going to try to hit it out there. If they throw it in, put a barrel on it and get out front. Just take what the game gives me.”
The A’s made two roster moves ahead of the Tuesday game. Catcher Carlos Perez, who had been out since July 2 due to a broken left thumb, came off the injured list, and right-hander Tayler Scott arrived from Triple-A Las Vegas.
Perez singled as a pinch hitter Tuesday night, and Scott threw one scoreless inning in relief.
Oakland placed right-hander Angel Felipe on the 15-day injured list because of a sprained right elbow and outfielder JJ Bleday on the 10-day IL due to a sprained left knee.
Cardinals catcher Willson Contreras (sore right hip) and infielder Nolan Gorman (lower back stiffness) sat out on Tuesday and were considered questionable for Wednesday.
The Cardinals summoned right-hander Casey Lawrence from Triple-A Memphis on Tuesday with left-hander Steven Matz (left lat strain) going on the 15-day IL.
—Field Level Media
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