Cardinals-Marlins Preview

Jake Westbrook pitched well enough to win his debut with the St.

Louis Cardinals, but came up short. He might have to be even better

this time around if Florida All-Star Josh Johnson can regroup from

a rare rough outing.

Westbrook tries again for his first victory with his new team as

the Cardinals look to hand Johnson and the Marlins a season-high

sixth straight loss Saturday night.

Acquired by St. Louis (61-48) from Cleveland last Saturday in a

three-team deal that sent Ryan Ludwick to San Diego, Westbrook did

not factor in the decision after allowing two runs and four hits

while striking out seven in six innings of a 9-4 home loss to

Houston on Monday.

“I felt like I was able to harness (the nerves and excitement),”

said Westbrook, who went 6-7 with a 4.65 ERA in 21 starts for the

Indians this season.

It’s been six years since the two-time 15-game winner faced

Florida. On June 9, 2004, the right-hander allowed one run and six

hits in eight innings of an 8-1 win for Cleveland.

Westbrook might have to pitch at least that well to give his new

team a chance against Johnson (10-4, 1.96 ERA), who still has the

lowest ERA in the majors despite struggling in his last start.

Johnson allowed as many runs as he’d yielded in his previous

five outings combined when he gave up five in 5 2-3 innings of a

5-4 loss Sunday at San Diego. It was the first time in 20 starts

that Johnson didn’t pitch at least six innings.

“It happens. This game is not easy,” shortstop Hanley Ramirez

told the Marlins’ official website. “It’s just one bad game. How

many good ones has he got? I can’t wait to see him out there

(again).”

The right-hander, 1-1 with a 3.20 ERA in three starts against

the Cardinals, will try to help the Marlins (53-56) bounce back

after Adam Wainwright held them to two hits – singles by Ramirez

and Brett Hayes – in a 7-0 loss Friday.

The Marlins, who have totaled 11 runs while going 0-5 in August,

held a players-only meeting before Friday’s game.

“We’re flat. There’s no way around it,” said second baseman Dan

Uggla, who is 0 for 7 in his last two games. “This is where we show

the true character of our team.”

After hitting .342 to win the NL batting title in 2009, Ramirez

is batting .279 this season and is 5 for 30 in his last eight

games. He is 2 for 14 in his last five home contests against the

Cardinals.

Albert Pujols outproduced the Marlins all by himself Friday with

three hits, including a three-run homer in the first inning. He

finished with four RBIs as St. Louis won for the 17th time in 23

games at Florida.

“If you want to diagram the perfect way to play, you score

early,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “It helps.”

Pujols is 14 for 28 with five of his 28 home runs in his last

six games. The All-Star slugger is 3 for 9 with a homer against

Johnson.