ST. LOUIS The first hit, a single, came and went without much to-do.
Occasionally, one of them gets on base.
But after Jake Westbrook, who entered the game with a batting average of .100, smashed a double to notch the first multi-hit game of his career, then later followed it with another single that made him 3-for-3, eyes stuck on the sinker ball-throwing starting pitcher.
Both times, he turned to his dugout and shrugged.
“I ran into a few, I guess,” he said after the Cardinals beat the San Diego Padres 9-6 on Friday.
If you saw his shrugs and followed Westbrook’s eyes toward the Cardinals dugout, you would have noticed two pitchers — Adam Wainwright and Shelby Miller — at the top step cheering Westbrook on.
Or so you might have thought.
“No,” manager Mike Matheny said of the exchange. “They talk a lot of trash. That’s all they’re doing. They talk smack nonstop about their hitting. That’s all you saw going on there.”
It turns out the Cardinals pitchers tend to be a bit competitive when it comes to their turns at the plate. None hit the ball very well. But all are determined to hit the ball better than one another.
“Those guys, they take their at-bats seriously,” Matheny said. “They put a lot of pride into them. It’s frustrating to them. They don’t get enough repetitions to consistently do what they want to do. But they’ve been working hard, and sometimes it pays off. Like tonight.”
Oh, Westbrook pitched, too. He went 6 1/3 innings and notched his sixth win of the season. He’s now 4-0 at Busch Stadium with a 0.76 home ERA. The two earned runs he allowed were the most he’s surrendered in St. Louis this year.
“It wasn’t really one of my better ball games pitching-wise, with so many fly balls,” he said. “I got away with a few things.”
Enough of that. Let’s get back to the important stuff.
How old was he the last time he had three hits and scored two runs?
“I couldn’t even answer that,” he said.
In the teens?
“Definitely in high school was the last time I’ve done that,” he said.
So he was a good hitter in high school?
“Ehhhh,” he said.
Friday night made up for lost time. Westbrook took a much needed step forward in what is described by all accounts as a pretty intense competition that takes place when the Cardinals’ arms are at the plate.
“I was down there a little bit, going into this game,” Westbrook, who had two hits prior to Friday, said. “Now, I’m back up there. Hopefully I can run into a few more as the season goes on.”
Now, back to the shrugging.
Why were Wainwright (five hits) and Miller (two hits) giving him grief?
“Grief?” Westbrook said. “No. They were just saying, ‘What a hitter.'”
That’s a little hard to believe.
But a pitcher who goes 3-for-3 gets to have the last word.
Follow Ben Frederickson on Twitter (@Ben_Fred), or contact him at email@example.com