ST. LOUIS -- Dodgers left-handed reliever Adam Liberatore informed manager Dave Roberts in Spring Training that he's the best left-handed reliever in the Major Leagues. Roberts told him to "prove it." Over the past 64 days, he certainly came close with a streak of 28 consecutive appearances without allowing a run.
That impressive string of games came to an end Sunday night in the Dodgers' 9-6 win over the Cardinals, but Roberts believes Liberatore answered the call.
"I like the way people say things and then back them up, and I challenged him and he responded," Roberts said. "That's what I like."
Liberatore entered in the seventh inning and struck out Tommy Pham. Kolten Wong then singled before Alberto Rosario and Randal Grichuk walked to load the bases. Shortstop Aledmys Díaz hit a sacrifice fly off Joe Blanton to bring home Wong and put an end to the zeros in the run column that have sat next to Liberatore's name in every outing since May 18.
"What's not to say?" Dodgers starter Scott Kazmir said. "He's able to locate his fastball in any spot. He commands both sides of the plate as well. I think just mixing his pitches, it's a key for anyone but he does it so well. He's able to take advantage of hitters and expand the strike zone and that's huge."
Liberatore allowed 10 hits and walked eight while striking out 29 of the 85 batters he faced in 22 2/3 innings before the streak ended. His 28 consecutive appearances without allowing a run is a Dodgers record, and he had allowed two runs and thrown 41 of 42 scoreless appearances this season prior to Sunday.
"It was a great run and I trust him when he's out there," Roberts said. "When guys weren't throwing great, he picked up the slack getting lefties out, righties out, and I put him in a lot of tough spots. For him to go up there and take the ball with confidence and that swagger that he has, he was a huge lift for all of us."
Liberatore's ERA started at 1.64 and dropped to 0.55 in just over two months since the streak began. Liberatore's longest outing during the streak came June 18 when he struck out four over the final two innings and threw 29 pitches in a 10-6 win over the Brewers. The run helped the Dodgers as well, who won 18 of the 28 games in which Liberatore appeared during the streak.
"I think to have really true confidence, you've got to be good," Roberts said. "I think people can contrive confidence, it can not be authentic, but I think with Adam, it's real."