CLEVELAND — Shane Bieber worked into the seventh inning, Amed Rosario hit a three-run double and closer Emmanuel Clase survived another stress-filled ninth inning as the Cleveland Guardians held on for a 4-3 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night.
Bieber (4-3) didn’t have his best stuff, but the right-hander limited the Cardinals to two sacrifice flies before a pair of two-out walks got him into trouble in the seventh.
Rosario’s bases-clearing double in Cleveland’s four-run fifth — a rare big inning for the scuffling AL Central champs — 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 pulled. He’s 9-1 in his career against NL Central teams.
Trevor Stephan replaced Bieber in the seventh and gave up a walk to load the bases, but buckled down and got DH Nolan Gorman to foul out and end the threat, preserving Cleveland’s two-run lead.
Enyel De Los Santos cleaned up a mess left by Stephan in the eighth by getting a double play.
The Guardians then turned to the hard-throwing Clase, who hasn’t been himself this season. He gave up a one-out RBI double to Lars Nootbaar before striking out Paul Goldschmidt and Gorman, who took a called third strike, for his MLB-leading 17th save in 22 chances.
Nolan Arenado and Alec Burleson hit sacrifice flies for the Cardinals, who are 13-6 since May 7.
Making just his second start this year, Liberatore held the light-hitting Guardians, who entered the series last or near last in every offensive category, to just an infield single by Mike Zunino in the third inning.
However, the left-hander helped ignite Cleveland’s big fifth by hitting Andres Giminez with a pitch leading off. Zunino and Myles Straw hit singles 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 in Cleveland’s Progressive Field. The only ballparks they’ve visited less are Yankee Stadium (6), Oakland Coliseum (8), Camden Yards (9), Tropicana Field and Rogers Centre (11), Seattle’s T-Mobile Park and Minneapolis’ Target Field and Metrodome (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 percent swing-and-miss rate. Only Washington (21.7) and Arizona (22.2) are better.
Guardians: RHP Aaron Civale (strained oblique) will make his third rehab start at Triple-A Columbus on Sunday. It’s possible Civale could be activated and return to the rotation next week. … The team was planning the next steps for RHP Triston McKenzie (shoulder strain) following his latest 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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