Rookie Weaver solidifying spot in rotation

Young right-hander has been dynamite in past three starts

August 29th, 2017

MILWAUKEE -- His spot in the rotation is technically temporary, but continues to pitch as if he belongs as a fixture for a club seeking to make a postseason push down the stretch.

Given a second chance to solve Weaver, the Brewers fared no better than they had earlier this month. Weaver, filling in for an injured , turned in another double-digit-strikeout performance while helping the Cardinals coast to a 10-2 victory Tuesday that pulled them within a game and a half of Milwaukee in the National League Central standings.

"I'm pitching with more confidence," said Weaver, now 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA in four career starts versus Milwaukee. "I think the more reps I get out there, the better it goes. I'm just getting acclimated and knowing those big situations, how to handle them, and some success obviously helps with confidence."

A rotation grasping for stability has found some with the help of Weaver, who, in three August starts, has allowed four runs over 19 innings. The Cardinals have won all three of those games.

All the while, questions about whether Weaver could finally make the adjustments necessary to translate remarkable Triple-A success to big league outs has been replaced by another: Why wasn't he here sooner?

With a 10-strikeout night Tuesday, Weaver became the first Cardinals rookie to notch double-digit strikeouts in consecutive games since Rick Ankiel in 2000. Weaver's 81 strikeouts through his first 16 appearances moved him into a first-place tie in the franchise history books. Only , Alan Benes and Vinegar Bend Mizell had reached that figure previously.

Weaver is averaging 11.16 strikeouts per nine innings over his 65 1/3 career Major League innings.

"This is Luke Weaver," said catcher , who would know, given the amount of work the two had together in the Minors. "He's fine-tuning his pitches. [He had] maybe some bigger misses last year. Now he's around the plate and making more competitive pitches."

Weaver didn't endure a complicated inning on Tuesday until the sixth, which he couldn't finish. Weaver allowed five singles in the inning and was pulled one out shy of notching another quality start.

Otherwise the Brewers, who had been held to two runs over 6 1/3 innings by Weaver on Aug. 2, couldn't make many adjustments. Asked what Weaver did so well, Brewers slugger grinned and replied: "Everything.

"He locates all his pitches," Braun added. "When you have a changeup that is that good, it makes your fastball play up. And then obviously there's some life on his fastball, so that makes the changeup that much more challenging. Then he throws some curveballs, some cutters. ... He's thrown well every time we've seen him."

Weaver's run of success may be solidifying a spot for him in the 2018 rotation. But it's also going to make it hard for the Cardinals to take him out of this one, even if Wainwright does return next month.

Asked if Weaver will indeed stick in this spot through September, manager Mike Matheny didn't try to dodge in his response.

"He looks great," Matheny answered. "There's no reason why he shouldn't be there."