Cardinals-Cubs Preview

Jake Westbrook owns the lowest ERA in baseball, but a visit to
Wrigley Field could put that in jeopardy.

Westbrook looks to give the St. Louis Cardinals another strong
effort on the mound in order to help them salvage a split of this
two-game set with the archrival Chicago Cubs on Wednesday.

The Cardinals (20-12) have the best rotation in baseball with a
2.22 ERA, and Westbrook (2-1, 1.07 ERA) is a big reason for

The right-hander, however, is 2-1 with a 6.14 ERA while allowing
the Cubs to hit .305 over three starts at Wrigley. Overall, he’s
5-2 with a 4.14 ERA in eight starts and won the most recent matchup
on July 21, when he yielded three hits in seven innings of a 12-0
home victory.

Westbrook enters this matchup after yielding one run in 12
innings over his last two starts, earning a 6-5 win in the latest
one at Milwaukee on Thursday. That marked the sinkerballer’s 100th
career victory.

“One of the luxuries I have is that my ball still moves,” the
13-year veteran told the team’s official website. “Lot of times,
whether it goes where I want it to or not, it still runs down in
the zone. It still can be good, and I can have some success.”

The Cubs (13-20) may be at the bottom of the NL Central, but
they’ve won four of six at home against the Cardinals. They beat
them again Tuesday, when Nate Schierholtz’s two-run homer in the
fourth provided the difference in a 2-1 victory.

“Any time we come in here, it’s tough,” manager Mike Matheny
said. “This team plays us tough any time we come into Wrigley.”

Chicago is trying for a third straight win at home for the first
time since July 28-30, a stretch that included two wins over St.

Alfonso Soriano, who had two hits and a run Tuesday, has hit the
Cardinals hard of late with a .327 average in 14 meetings. Much of
that damage has come in nine home games, during which he’s batting
.389 (14 for 36) with seven extra-base hits.

Soriano, though, is 3 for 30 versus Westbrook, who has held the
current Cubs roster to .218 at the plate.

Carlos Villanueva (1-2, 2.85) is slated to get the ball in an
effort to avoid losing three straight starts for the first time in
his eight-year career.

He’ll try to draw some inspiration from Travis Wood’s impressive
performance Tuesday after he yielded one run with eight strikeouts
in 6 2-3 innings to outpitch Lance Lynn.

Villanueva has lost back-to-back-outings, surrendering eight
runs with 12 strikeouts in 11 2-3 innings.

“In my last two starts, I’m one pitch away from two quality
outings,” Villanueva said. “You know, the good part is I’m close to
where I want to be. I’m just not putting that guy away when I need

The right-hander is 2-0 with a 4.00 ERA in his last three starts
against the Cardinals, but he hasn’t faced them since June 25,

He’s held Yadier Molina to 3 for 18, but the Cardinals catcher
is hitting .452 over his last eight games. He had two hits Tuesday,
but killed a potential rally in the eighth by being picked off
between second and third.

Matt Holiday has homered on two of his three hits in 10 at-bats
versus Villanueva, but he’s 3 for 20 over the last six games at