Those two factors, along with another strong start by rookie right-hander Shane Bieber, meant good things for the Indians on Wednesday night as they beat the Cardinals, 5-1, to avoid a sweep in this three-game series.
Edwin Encarnacion and Lonnie Chisenhall opened the second inning with consecutive homers off Jack Flaherty, the Cardinals' hard-throwing rookie right-hander, for a 2-0 lead. Those two runs matched the Tribe's offensive output in the first two games of this series.
The Cardinals outscored the Indians, 15-2, in the first two games. The start of both games was delayed for over an hour by rain and St. Louis provided much more adept at handling the delay than the Tribe.
But Wednesday dawned hot and muggy without a trace of rain. The Indians dried out and started swinging the bats like they had during the seven-game winning streak they crafted before arriving in this Mississippi River town.
They made it a 4-0 lead with two more runs in the third. Francisco Lindor scored from third as Chisenhall ran his way out of potential inning-ending double play. Jason Kipnis blooped a single into center field to score Michael Brantley, who reached on a double.
Bieber (3-0, 2.22) protected the lead like it was made of gold. He allowed a run in the third on a single by Jose Ramirez, but after that shut the Cards down through six innings.
AL managers hate to see their pitchers swing the bat in interleague games at NL ballparks. They fear injury every time a pitcher grabs a bat, but there apparently isn't anything on a baseball field Bieber can't do.
Bieber, after striking out in his first official big-league at-bat, doubled with one out in the fourth. He slid into second base just because he wanted to and got as far as third before the inning ended.
In six innings, Bieber allowed one run on six hits. He threw 70 percent of his pitches for strikes, punching out five and walking one. The Tribe's fourth round pick in 2016 started the year by sprinting through the Class AA and Triple-A levels, going a combined 6-1 with a 1.29 ERA in 12 starts.
In his first four big-league starts, Bieber has struck out 27 in 24 1/3 innings.
Bieber was at his best in the fifth. Carpenter doubled and reached third on Martinez's single with one out. The Tribe's 4-1 lead did not feel secure, but Bieber struck out dangerous Marcell Ozuna, who has 21 RBI in June, iand induced Yadier Molina to bounce into a force play at second.
Carpenter, the Cardinals third baseman, went 8-for-9 against the Tribe in the first two games. Bieber and the bullpen held him to one hit on Wednesday.
The Indians did a nice job against Flaherty, who entered the game with the most strikeouts in Cardinal history (88) in his first 16 appearances. Flaherty, a No.1 pick in 2014, lasted just four innings. He allowed four runs on six hits with five strikeouts.
Tyler Naquin added an insurance run in the sixth with an RBI double to make it 5-1.
What it means
The last Tribe pitcher to double for his first big league hit was Jake Westbrook on June 17, 2006 against Milwaukee.
Flaherty threw 75 pitches, 46 (61 percent) for strikes. Bieber threw pitches 99 pitches, 69 (70 percent) for strikes.
Thanks for coming
The Indians and Cardinals drew 43,598 to Busch Stadium on Wednesday night. First pitch was at 8:17 p.m. with a temperature of 90 degrees.
The Indians are off Thursday after leaving St. Louis late Wednesday night headed for their hotel in San Francisco. They open a three-game series against Oakland at the Coliseum on Friday night with Trevor Bauer facing Paul Blackburn at 10:05 p.m. Adam Plutko and Mike Clevinger are scheduled to start Saturday and Sunday's games against Oakland's Edwin Jackson and Frankie Montas.
SportsTime Ohio and WLKR-FM/95.3 will carry the series.