CLEVELAND, Ohio — The run-starved Guardians may have shocked themselves by scoring four runs in the fifth inning Friday night. But no one was happier than Shane Bieber.
Bieber lost his last start despite throwing a complete game when the Guardians scored just once in a 2-1 loss to Justin Verlander and the Mets. Friday night those four runs had to look like an avalanche of offense to the Guardians ace, especially since the bullpen made them stand up in a 4-3 win over St. Louis at Progressive Field.
For the Guardians, the lowest scoring team in the big leagues, it was just their third win in the last 10 games. They have lost 13 of their last 21 games.
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Bieber (4-3, 3.04), making his 11th start of the season, found himself in another pitcher’s duel in the early going.
Left-hander Matthew Liberatore (1-1, 4.91) held the Guardians scoreless on one hit through four innings. Bieber responded with four scoreless innings of his own.
The exchange of zeroes ended in the fifth when Amed Rosario’s bases-loaded double gave the Guardians a 4-0 lead.
“It looked like Amed hit a good pitch, down an in,” said manager Terry Francona. “We’ll take it. We haven’t bunched runs together like that. So that was welcomed.”
Andres Gimenez started the inning by taking an 87-mph slider off his right shoulder. Singles by Mike Zunino and Myles Straw loaded the bases. Steven Kwan, who leads the team with 17 hits against lefties, singled to left for a 1-0 lead.
Rosario, with no extra base hits in his last 10 games, doubled down the left field line on a 1-2 pitch to clear the bases for a 4-0 lead. Rosario was in a 5 for 41 skid going into the at-bat.
“With the bases loaded I was just trying to put the ball in play,” said Rosario, through interpreter Agustin Rivero. “I wasn’t sitting on any particular pitch. I was just trying to make sure to put the ball in play.”
Rosario said he was not concerned about Cleveland’s pop-gun offense and its inability to score runs.
“I’m not concerned at all,” said Rosario. “You’re going to have hard times in the (this) game. I have full confidence in my teammates that we’re going to put it together and produce the runs we’re capable of producing.”
The Cardinals ended Bieber’s bid for a shutout on Nolan Arenado’s sacrifice fly in the sixth to make it 4-1. Lars Nootbaar and Paul Goldschmidt opened the inning with singles. It looked like right fielder Gabriel Arias had a chance to catch Goldschmidt’s fly ball, but he slipped.
First baseman Josh Naylor saved a run with a diving stop of Nolan Gorman’s grounder behind the bag as the runners advanced to bring Arenado to the plate. Willson Contreras grounded out to end the inning.
The Guardians have not scored more than four runs in an inning since May 13 when they scored six in the eighth inning of an 8-6 win over the Angels.
Bieber didn’t make it through the seventh as St. Louis halved the lead to 4-2 on a sacrifice fly by Alec Burleson. Bieber walked the next two batters and was replaced by Trevor Stephan.
Stephan, who couldn’t control his fastball, added to the mounting anxiety of the inning by walking Goldschmidt to load the bases. He fell behind Nolan Gorman, the Cardinals’ No. 3 hitter, 2-1 before he fouled out to Jose Ramirez in front of the Guardians’ dugout.
Gorman entered the game leading St. Louis with 49 RBI with 19 of them coming in the seventh inning or later.
“I think we ended on a frustrating note in giving up those two runs in the way we did,” said Bieber. “I felt I could have created more swing and miss. I was a little bit out of character with those two walks in the seventh, but the bullpen picked me up big time. It was a much needed and deserved W.”
Stephan found trouble again in the seventh. Contreras walked with one out and Brendan Donovan singled. Enyel De Los Santos relieved and ended the inning with a 5-4-3 double play.
De Los Santos, with James Karinchak trying to right himself after a shaky stretch, has emerged as Francona’s latest high-leverage set-up man.
“It feels really good for the manager to have that confidence in me,” said De Los Santos through Rivero. “But I feel it’s just not on me. I feel he has it for all members of the bullpen.
“We just want to execute whenever he calls.”
Emmanuel Clase earned his 17th save despite allowing an RBI double to Nootbaar to make it a 4-3 game in the ninth. Clase is 17 for 22 in save chances.
The victory gave the Guardians a 10-13 record in one-run games this year.
Bieber allowed two runs on five hits in 6 2/3 innings. He’s 3-0 in his career against St. Louis. Liberatore allowed four runs on five hits in five innings. He struck out two and walked two.
Kwan turned in the defensive play of the game as he robbed Arenado of a leadoff double in the eighth with a catch against the left field wall. He almost did the same thing to Nootbaar in the ninth, but just missed the double that made it a 4-3 game.
“I thought Kwan made a really good catch (in the eighth) and almost knocked himself out in the ninth trying to make another one,” said Francona.
Next: RHP Tanner Bibee (1-1, 3.18) vs. RHP Jack Flaherty (3-4, 6.29) Saturday at 7:15 p.m. FOX, WTAM, WMMS and the Guardians radio network will carry the game.
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