The St. Louis Cardinals were two outs from entering their
crucial series against the Pittsburgh Pirates tied for the second
NL wild-card spot.
But if anyone can get them even quickly, it’s Jake Westbrook,
who will try to win a career-best sixth consecutive start Friday
night to open this three-game set between division rivals.
The reigning World Series champions are tied with San Francisco
at 64-54, one game back of Pittsburgh (65-53). The Cardinals held a
1-0 lead with Jason Motte trying to finish off Arizona late
Thursday night after an 85-minute rain delay before the game, but
he allowed homers to Paul Goldschmidt and Chris Young on
consecutive pitches in an eventual 2-1 loss to the
“It wasn’t good,” Motte said after blowing his first save since
June 17 and fifth in 32 opportunities. ”I didn’t do my job
tonight. It was one of those things.”
Westbrook (12-8, 3.62 ERA), meanwhile, has been a driving force
in getting St. Louis into playoff contention, compiling a 2.94 ERA
during his winning streak. The right-hander matched his 2011 win
total after beating Philadelphia on Saturday, getting 17 groundouts
during 7 2-3 innings of one-run pitching in a 4-1 victory.
“He was as good as we’ve seen him,” Cardinals manager Mike
Matheny said. ”His sinker was falling off the table.”
After dropping two starts to the Pirates earlier this season
while being backed by only two runs, Westbrook notched his first
career win against them in a 5-4 victory July 1 despite giving up
four runs and nine hits in six innings. He is 1-5 with a 5.18 ERA
in seven starts and 11 lifetime games versus the Pirates.
While Westbrook has flourished, Pirates counterpart James
McDonald (10-5, 3.77) has foundered. The right-hander is 1-2 with
an 8.71 ERA in six starts since the All-Star break, with the worst
outing last Friday when he allowed a season-worst seven runs in 4
1-3 innings to San Diego as he blew a 6-1 lead.
The Pirates got him off the hook for the loss by rallying before
eventually losing 9-8.
Still, Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage was encouraged by
McDonald’s side sessions ahead of this start, noting to the team’s
official website, “It’s not so much pitch selection, it’s execution
of that pitch and locating that pitch. That’s what we’ve been
misfiring with every now and then, but they’ve been in key
A.J. Burnett and Garrett Jones delivered in those key situations
Thursday for Pittsburgh in a 10-6 victory over the Los Angeles
Dodgers to avoid a four-game sweep. Burnett showed some fire after
giving up a homer to Hanley Ramirez to notch his 15th win, and
Jones hit a pair of three-run homers as the Pirates finished a
disappointing 4-7 homestand on a positive note.
”He came out knowing what’s at hand here, and to put a foot
down,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Burnett. ”Then the
game probably added to his edge, sharpened his edge, just because
the game was all over the place.”
Jones was productive over the last week of the homestand, going
10 for 24 with three home runs, three doubles and one triple with
12 RBIs the last seven games. The first baseman, though, is 2 for
13 lifetime versus Westbrook.
McDonald went 1-0 in three starts against the Cardinals last
year, giving up seven runs in 16 1-3 innings, but did not receive a
decision in either of his outings at Busch Stadium. He is 2-1 with
a 3.38 ERA in four starts and eight lifetime appearances versus St.
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina will miss his third straight
game because of mid-back tightness.