CLEVELAND (AP) — Shane Bieber worked into the seventh inning, Amed Rosario hit a three-run double and closer Emmanuel Clase survived another stressful ninth inning as the Cleveland Guardians held on for a 4-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night .
Bieber (4-3) didn’t have the best of himself, but the righthander limited the Cardinals to two sac-fly before a pair of two-out walks got him into trouble in the seventh.
Rosario’s bases-clearing double in Cleveland’s fifth four-run series — a rare major inning for the struggling AL Central champions — came off St. Louis rookie Matthew Liberatore (1-1). The Guardians improved to just 7-12 against lefty starters.
Bieber allowed two runs and five hits in 6 2/3 innings before being retired. He is 9-1 in his career against NL Central teams.
Trevor Stephan relieved Bieber in the seventh and gave up a walk to load the bases, but collapsed and caused DH Nolan Gorman to foul and end the threat, preserving Cleveland’s two-run lead.
Enyel De Los Santos cleaned up a mess Stephan had left in the eighth inning by getting a double play.
The Guardians then turned to hard-throwing Clase, who hasn’t been himself this season. He gave up an one-out RBI double to Lars Nootbaar before striking out Paul Goldschmidt and Gorman, who took a called third at bat, for his MLB-leading 17th save in 22 chances.
Nolan Arenado and Alec Burleson hit sacrifice flies for the Cardinals, who are 13-6 as of May 7.
Making only his second start this year, Liberatore held the lightly batting Guardians, who were last or near last in every offensive category in the series, to just an infield single by Mike Zunino in the third inning.
However, the southpaw helped kick off Cleveland’s big fifth by hitting Andrés Giménez with a pitch on the run-up. Zunino and Myles Straw singled to load the bases.
Steven Kwan’s RBI single made it 1-0 before Rosario ripped his double into the left field corner to give the Guardians some breathing room.
The Cardinals have played just 14 games at Cleveland’s Progressive Field. The only ballparks they visited less are Yankee Stadium (6), Oakland Coliseum (8), Camden Yards (9), Tropicana Field and Rogers Center (11), T-Mobile Park in Seattle, and Target Field and Metrodome in Minneapolis (12). ).
Despite their offensive struggles, the Guardians came in with the fewest strikeouts (351) in the majors. Cleveland is also first in the AL and third in MLB with a 23% swing-and-miss percentage. Only Washington (21.7) and Arizona (22.2) are better.
Cardinals: Switch hitting OF Dylan Carlson (sprained left ankle) took swings from the right on Friday and the club hopes he will do so from the left and start running in the coming days. Carlson hurt his ankle when his cleat got stuck in the dirt at Fenway Park on May 14. … RHP Jake Woodford (Shoulder Inflammation) threw a bullpen session and may be approaching rehab.
Guardians: RHP Aaron Civale (tense oblique) will make his third rehab start at Triple-A Columbus on Sunday. It is possible that Civale will be activated and return to rotation next week. … The team was planning the next steps for RHP Triston McKenzie (shoulder strain) after his last rehab appearance on Thursday – four runs, six hits, six strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings (68 pitches) for Columbus.
Cardinals RHP Jack Flaherty (3-4, 5.29 ERA) makes his first start in Cleveland against Guardians rookie RHP Tanner Bibee (1-1, 3.18).
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Tom Withers, The Associated Press