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
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
“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.