Facing the Pittsburgh Pirates has a way of making a starting
rotation look good.
The St. Louis Cardinals don’t seem to need the help.
Coming off another stellar pitching performance, the Cardinals
send Jake Westbrook and his microscopic ERA to the hill Saturday
night as they continue their weekend series in Pittsburgh.
The only team in the NL Central with a winning record, St. Louis
(10-4) is already building a sizable lead atop the division, and
starting pitching may be the biggest reason. Despite the fact ace
Chris Carpenter is on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, the
Cardinals’ rotation sports a 2.87 ERA, and even that figure may be
deceptively high. St. Louis starters have given up more than two
runs only four times all April, and three of those outings were by
Adam Wainwright – still finding his form after Tommy John surgery
caused him to miss last season.
St. Louis starting pitchers other than Wainwright are 9-0 with a
Those numbers improved in Friday night’s series opener, as
converted reliever Lance Lynn became the staff’s first three-game
winner by limiting the Pirates to one run – on an Alex Presley
inside-the-park homer to lead off the game – and four hits in seven
innings of a 4-1 victory.
For a staff compiling sparkling numbers, the Pittsburgh lineup
may prove an easy foil all weekend. The Pirates’ 27 runs scored are
easily the fewest in the majors. They’ve scored two or fewer in
nine of their 13 games, and Friday’s four-hit effort lowered their
team batting average to .201.
Jose Tabata followed Presley’s first-inning homer with a single
but Pittsburgh never put a runner in scoring position all game.
“You get an inside-the-park homer and drop a single to the next
guy and we ended up with two more (hits) the rest of the night,”
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “It was another strong outing
for (Lynn). You have to take the barrel to him.”
Now, the Pirates (5-8) must face the Cardinals starter with the
lowest ERA of them all. Westbrook (2-0, 0.64 ERA) is bouncing back
strong from an off year in 2011. The right-hander, who dropped 20
pounds in the offseason, has allowed one earned run and seven hits
in 14 innings to win his first two starts.
Westbrook went seven strong innings in Sunday’s 10-3 victory
over the Chicago Cubs, recording 12 ground-ball outs and throwing
first-pitch strikes to nine of the first 11 batters he faced.
“That’s how I’m able to be successful, when I get ahead and
control some counts,” Westbrook said. “Just keeping the hitters on
Westbrook is 0-3 with a 5.46 ERA in eight appearances – four
starts – versus the Pirates, with all three losses coming at PNC
He’ll be opposed by Kevin Correia (1-0, 1.50), who’s off to a
strong start for the second straight season. The right-hander went
4-2 with a 2.90 ERA in April last year for Pittsburgh, but didn’t
post an ERA below four in any other month.
Correia earned his first win of the season Sunday, allowing one
run and three hits in six innings of a 4-1 victory at San
Francisco. He is 2-3 with a 3.86 ERA in 13 appearances – six starts
– against St. Louis.
Cardinals utilityman Skip Schumaker, activated Friday when Lance
Berkman went on the disabled list with a calf strain, left Friday’s
game after he got shaken up leaping for Presley’s home run in
center field. He said he expects to be available Saturday.