Pitcher Johan Oviedo will get his first chance to face his old team when the Pittsburgh Pirates visit the St. Louis Cardinals Friday.
Oviedo (4-2, 3.13 ERA) will start for Pittsburgh in the opener of a three-game series.
The Cardinals (90-66) sent Oviedo and infield prospect Malcom Nunez to the Pirates (59-97) for pitchers Jose Quintana and Chris Stratton before the trade deadline. Oviedo is 2-1 with a 3.05 ERA in five starts for the Pirates.
In his last outing, Oviedo blanked the Chicago Cubs for seven innings on three hits in a 6-0 victory. He walked nobody and struck out seven batters.
"He came out and commanded the zone, was really in control and he put us in good position," Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. "He did a good job of really pounding the zone and going after it. It's a good step forward."
After spending three seasons shuttling back and forth between the minors and majors, Oviedo is trying to finally establish himself as a big-league starting pitcher.
"I'm really happy and thankful, first of all, with the coaches and the staff and the work that we put into these past weeks," Oviedo said. "I was not looking at the strikeouts or pitch count, or anything. I was just trying to have fun every single pitch that I throw. Forget about the result, even if it was a good hit or a bad hit, or whatever happened in the game. I was just trying to have fun."
The Cardinals will counter Oviedo with Jack Flaherty (1-1, 4.97 ERA) as they prepare for postseason play. With the National League Central title in hand, manager Oliver Marmol plans to walk a fine line between rest and rust.
"It's a really good balance of keeping guys sharp and getting them rested, and you don't want to lose the edge of winning," Marmol told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Will certain lineups look different? Are we going to rest guys? Will outings look shorter? Will we use our 'pen a little differently? Yes, to all of those. But you still don't miss on the small details of the game. That's the stuff that when I say sharp, you keep those things sharp."
Flaherty is 1-1 with a 4.71 ERA in four starts since returning from his latest bout of shoulder soreness.
He earned a 5-4 victory at San Diego in his last outing. Flaherty allowed three runs on five hits and four walks in six innings.
His nine strikeouts were a season high, as were his 99 pitches thrown.
"When he feels in control and in command of his stuff, that's what he is able to do," Marmol said. "He'll get the punch-outs. He's good throwing anything in any count, but it's establishing the fastball that allowed all that other stuff to play ... We'll build off of that, for sure."
Flaherty faced the Pirates earlier this month and allowed three runs on six hits and four walks in five innings. He didn't earn a decision in that game, which the Cardinals eventually won 7-5.
Rodolfo Castro and Jack Suwinski hit homers off Flaherty in the game. Cal Mitchell (2-for-4, double, RBI) has also had success against Flaherty, while Bryan Reynolds (4-for-22, five strikeouts) and Ben Gamel (0-for-5) have struggled against him.
--Field Level Media