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Braves aim to complete four-game sweep of Cardinals

Sportsnaut
Jul 2, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Spencer Strider (65) throws pitch against the Cincinnati Reds during the first inning at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Braves will send hard-throwing right-hander Spencer Strider to the mound on Thursday to try to secure a four-game sweep of the visiting St. Louis Cardinals.

Strider (4-2, 2.87 ERA) will be opposed by St. Louis left-hander Matthew Liberatore (2-1, 5.66) in a battle of rookies.

Atlanta won its third straight game of the series 3-0 on Wednesday, the team’s fifth shutout of the season, and has won seven of its past nine. The Braves have won seven in a row against St. Louis and improved to 26-7 since June 1.

The Cardinals are trying to halt a season-long four-game losing streak.

Strider has a three-game winning streak and has allowed only one run over his past 12 innings. In his most recent start on Saturday at Cincinnati, Strider pitched six innings and gave up one run on one hit, one walk and 11 strikeouts, matching his career high, in his seventh career start.

“Awesome,” said Atlanta manager Brian Snitker. “He was free and easy. That’s two really good ones in a row. His breaking ball was really good.”

Strider said, “I’m still trying to extend a little more each time. I’m starting to stretch out a little bit.”

Strider has never faced the Cardinals.

Liberatore failed to get out of the third inning in his start against Philadelphia on Saturday, despite being staked to a 5-0 lead when the Cards matched a major-league record with four consecutive homers in the opening inning. Liberatore received no decision after working 2 2/3 innings and allowing five runs on seven hits, one walk and three strikeouts.

“You want to fill up the zone with strikes and I didn’t do a good job of that coming out with that lead,” Liberatore said. “I paid the price. Maybe a little bit mechanical, maybe a little moving too fast through my delivery. I don’t think I’m missing by a ton. A lot of those fastballs were just off the plate. I’m just going to go back and make sure everything is in the strike zone early in the count.”

Liberatore will be making his first career appearance against the Braves.

A bright spot for the Cardinals has been the performance of their bullpen.

Zack Thompson and Giovanny Gallegos each threw a scoreless inning on Wednesday, meaning St. Louis relievers have thrown 16 consecutive scoreless innings. The Cardinals bullpen has an 0.83 ERA in July, two earned runs over 21 2/3 innings, holding the opposition to 10 hits with 20 strikeouts.

Packy Naughton has limited left-handed batters to a .138 batting average (4-for-29) and has only allowed one hit to a lefty when coming out of the bullpen, an infield single to San Francisco’s Luis Gonzalez. Since then his left-handed opponents are 0-for-18 when facing him out of the bullpen.

Atlanta hit two more home runs on Wednesday and leads the National League with 126.

The Braves have seven players with double-digit home runs prior to the All-Star Game for the first time since the team moved to Atlanta in 1966 — Austin Riley (21), Marcell Ozuna (17), Dansby Swanson (14), Matt Olson (12), Travis d’Arnaud (11), Adam Duvall (10) and William Contreras (10).

–Field Level Media