Cardinals-Rays Preview

Even without Albert Pujols in the middle of the lineup, the St.

Louis Cardinals had little trouble hitting homers while sweeping

one AL East opponent this week.

They may find the competition a little tougher this weekend.

Looking to keep up their longball surge, the Cardinals must also

keep Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton in check while trying to extend

their dominance over the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night.

St. Louis (44-38) got two homers from Lance Berkman en route to

a 9-6 win over Baltimore on Thursday. Mired in a 1-for-15 slump

over his previous five games, Berkman hit a two-run drive in the

second inning measured at 422 feet and a solo homer in the seventh

that went an estimated 444 feet.

The Cardinals outscored the Orioles 20-9 while hitting six

homers in the series.

“We’ve got some hot bats right now,” manager Tony La Russa

said. ”Lance had a big game. This game over here is so tough

because you have the American League rules and the ballpark. But we

were swinging tonight.”

St. Louis, which is tied with slumping Milwaukee atop the NL

Central, is 5-1 all-time against the Rays, including a three-game

sweep at Tropicana Field in June 2005.

Trying to cool off the Cardinals will be Wade Davis (7-5, 4.32

ERA), who looks to match a career high by winning his fourth

straight start for Tampa Bay.

Davis had gone five weeks between wins before starting his

current streak June 12. Pitching at Houston on Sunday, the

right-hander lasted seven innings and yielded one run for the

second straight start in the Rays’ 7-2 win.

Davis, whose lifetime ERA is more than a full run lower in the

season’s second half, is encouraged that he’s pitching well before

the All-Star break.

“Everything’s coming together a bit better,” he said.

“Hopefully I can build off the momentum. We’re playing good and I

think it will be good for everybody.”

Davis also won four consecutive starts July 8-30, 2010. He has

never faced St. Louis.

Tampa Bay (45-36) resumes play after losing two of three to

Cincinnati, including a 4-3 defeat Wednesday. Longoria had a

two-run double and Upton hit a solo homer.

Longoria is hitting .400 with four homers and 13 RBIs over the

last six games, while Upton has gone deep four times with eight

RBIs in that span.

They’ll look to continue their solid hitting against Jake

Westbrook (6-4, 5.32), who seeks his first win in four starts for

St. Louis.

The right-hander has allowed four runs in each of his last three

outings, and is coming off the shortest stint of that stretch.

Westbrook was lit up for a season-high 10 hits in 4 1-3 innings

last Friday, but didn’t get a decision in a 5-4 loss to

Toronto.

“A lot of times early on I can get into a rhythm and find it,

but tonight I was just kind of all over the place from the get-go.

I know I’m a better pitcher than that,” said Westbrook, who’s

failed to last at least five innings in four of his 16 starts.

Westbrook, who pitched in the AL with the New York Yankees and

Cleveland from 2000-10, is 6-3 with a 3.93 ERA in 13 career starts

against the Rays.

With 2,654 career hits, Tampa Bay’s Johnny Damon needs one more

to move past Ted Williams into sole possession of 71st place

all-time. Damon is 3 for 15 against Westbrook.