A chance to sweep is on the line tonight in St. Louis, with the Cardinals looking to secure their first series sweep since July 17th-19th. With one of their young starters on the hill fresh off the best start of his career, we’ll preview tonight’s matchup before going over my play for the first five innings.
Unlike the opening game of the series, the Cardinals did not need to make a late-inning comeback to hand the A’s last night, as they were able to jump out to a lead within the first inning. With 14 hits for the game, the Cardinals' offense came ready to attack the A’s pitching staff right from the first pitch of their 6-2 win. Out of the 14 hits, eight went for extra bases, including home runs by Jordan Walker, Tommy Edman, and Nolan Arenado. The Cardinals' third baseman would finish the game 4-5 with two RBIs.
Looking to keep the Oakland offense at bay will be lefty Matthew Liberatore, who is set to make his 11th start of the year. For most of the year, Liberatore has struggled to keep teams out of the run column, but that was not the case in his recent outing. Taking on the Rays in Tampa Bay, the lefty pitched eight shutout innings with seven strikeouts and just two hits allowed.
In order to avoid their sixth straight loss, the A’s offense will need to knock Liberatore back to his form before the Rays' outing. Oakland did have a solid offensive performance in the opening game of the series but followed that up last night with just six hits, the biggest being a two-run home run from Lawrence Butler, the first longball of his MLB career.
Oakland will hand the ball to the most experienced starter in their rotation tonight, with Paul Blackburn getting the nod. After turning in three straight impressive outings, the right-hander took a step back in his most recent start against the Nationals, allowing four earned runs on eight hits in 5.2 innings of work. That rough outing raised his ERA to 4.52 in 65.7 innings of work.
St. Louis is priced at (-185) for the full-game moneyline, but for my play, I’ll be taking their F5 run-line of (-.5), which is priced at (-114). The Cardinals' offense has been solid at home recently, and although you can’t base everything on one outing, what I saw from Liberatore against the Rays was really promising.
Liberatore has a good matchup tonight against a bad Oakland offense. Over the last month, the A’s are hitting .232 and rank 29th in wRC+ and 28th in OPS against left-handed pitching on the road. With an on-base percentage in that span of .262 and a walk percentage of 2.3%, Liberatore should not find himself needing to work out of a lot of jams tonight.
On the other hand, Paul Blackburn will have his work cut out for him, as he faces a Cardinals offense that ranks 8th in SLG, 7th in OPS, and 6th in wRC+ against right-handed pitching at home over the past month. With the A’s starter pitching to a 5.34 ERA on the road this season, the Cardinals should be able to jump out to an early lead like they did last night.
St. Louis Cardinals F5 (-.5)(-114)