Redbirds' Weaver hurls six shutout innings

Cardinals No. 3 prospect strikes out six in longest start since May

Luke Weaver is 4-0 with a 2.17 ERA and 35 strikeouts over 29 innings in six starts since May 19. (Ben Sandstrom/MiLB.com)

By Tyler Maun / MiLB.com | June 28, 2017 1:08 AM

Luke Weaver was named a Pacific Coast League All-Star on Wednesday afternoon and, hours later, he pitched like one.

Back to full strength on the mound, the Cardinals' No. 3 prospect allowed three hits and two walks over six scoreless innings as Triple-A Memphis pulled away en route to a 7-2 victory over Oklahoma City at AutoZone Park.

Weaver had been limited to 11 innings this month due to what he termed a "back flareup." Against the Dodgers, he was free of constraints.

"Coming off the sort of pitch count and getting a little bit more to work with, I think mainly just I'm feeling good out there," he said. "Everything's clicking back to normal and I'm trying to get back into the swing of things, throw some strikes and get some outs. I think tonight gave me a positive outlook on to the next one.


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"I'm just making sure that I'm not overdoing anything and being smart about it."

Weaver lasted 3 2/3 innings on June 23 at Omaha, 12 days after a 2 1/3-inning start against Nashville. In those two outings, MLB.com's No. 57 overall prospect threw 75 and 49 pitches respectively.

"Sometimes when you have a shorter pitch count, it makes you have to throw strikes," he said. "That can end up being efficient and you can get some quick outs or you can end up going the opposite way. I think the outing before this, I just kind of worked up some long at-bats. The next thing I know, I'm toward the end of the pitch count and it's the fourth inning. Sometimes it can backfire in some ways. Having the pitch count or close to it that you would normally have puts that off the table and whatever happens happens."

Back to normal in his final start of the month, Weaver cruised early. The 23-year-old walked Scott Van Slyke with one out in the second but otherwise didn't face a baserunner through four innings. The Dodgers threatened in the fifth and sixth, but Weaver worked out of both jams. Drew Maggi doubled to left field with one out in the fifth but was retired at third on a fielder's choice off the bat of Jose Miguel Fernandez. Then, with the bases loaded and two gone in the sixth, Weaver made a highlight reel play to get the inning's final out.

Video: Memphis' Weaver finishes sixth inning

"I made some quality pitches that they made some good swings on," he said. "Coming into those innings, having to bear down and make some big pitches, I was able to execute and put some in some good spots to get some weak contact and help myself out with a play in a big moment there to get out of it unscathed."

Through 11 starts this year, Weaver is 7-1 with a 1.93 ERA that would lead the Pacific Coast League if he had enough innings to qualify. The Triple-A community noticed by selecting the right-hander to the first midseason All-Star team of his career.

"That was obviously a really cool honor. I'm definitely humbled and appreciative of it, of the people who voted," he said. "I heard about it yesterday before the game. It was pretty cool. I know in previous seasons, I unfortunately haven't been able to be a nominee just based off of some of the weird things that haven't let me get out of Spring Training healthy. To be able to throw enough innings to qualify is pretty cool."

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Now that he's worked his way back to full strength, Weaver's focus is on working to make himself steady with each start.

"I don't think the emphasis changes," he said. "It's just going out there and trying to fill up the zone and get quick outs. I think it's more the inner battle of making sure that consistency can happen on a regular basis. As a pitcher, you run into your own battles on the mound, whether it's mechanics or inefficiency in the strike zone. It's just being able to keep the consistency at the top of its peak."

Oklahoma City's Alex Verdugo lashed two singles to extend his hitting streak to 18 games. The Dodgers' second-ranked prospect is batting .459 (29-for-74) over that span -- the second-best average among all Triple-A hitters since June 8 -- with a .500 on-base percentage and .676 slugging percentage.

Video: Oklahoma City's Verdugo extends hitting streak

The Redbirds took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the eighth before scoring four runs to break the game open. Cardinals No. 6 prospect Harrison Bader and Wilfredo Tovar hit two-run homers in the inning.

Tyler Maun is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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