Preview: Cardinals playing for sweep, home-field advantage in regular-season finale
In what's likely his final appearance in a St. Louis uniform, Jake Westbrook will try to help the Cardinals grab home-field advantage in the NL playoffs.
The injury-plagued right-hander is expected to pitch a couple of innings before giving way to Joe Kelly in Sunday's regular-season finale against the Chicago Cubs.
With Atlanta losing to Philadelphia on Saturday, St. Louis (96-65) needs a win or another Braves loss Sunday to finish with the NL's best record and have an opportunity to face a wild-card team in the division series. Atlanta holds the tiebreaker after going 4-3 in this season's series.
"Keep building the momentum," first baseman Matt Adams told the team's website. "We're playing great baseball right now, so if we keep that going we're going to have a lot of confidence going into (the postseason)."
The Cardinals are giving Westbrook (7-8, 4.67 ERA) a chance to finish a difficult year on a positive note. The team is not expected to pick up his $9.5 million mutual option for 2014 and he's likely not going to be included on the playoff roster.
Westbrook was 2-1 with a 1.62 ERA in his first six starts this season before the first of his two stints on the disabled list. He was 5-7 with a 5.97 ERA over his next 13 appearances and headed to the DL for a lower back strain Aug. 23.
Westbrook was sent to the bullpen after his return Sept. 6 and his relief appearance against Pittsburgh that same day remains his only one this month.
"He's done a lot for a lot of people around here," manager Mike Matheny told the team's website. "We're real proud with how Jake has been able to help our club in many different ways and decided to get him out there to start."
Westbrook will need a better start against Chicago (66-95) to give the Cardinals some help. He gave up three runs in the opening frame Aug. 16 and seven over 6 2/3 innings in a 7-0 loss at Wrigley Field.
Kelly, meanwhile, pitched four-hit ball over six innings in his most recent matchup, a 4-0 win Aug. 17.
Like Westbrook, Jeff Samardzija (8-12, 4.33) will try to end a lackluster season in positive fashion. The Cubs' opening day starter has been inconsistent for much of this campaign but had a pair of solid efforts in his past two games.
Neither of those have resulted in wins, though. He gave up one run over six innings in a 2-1 loss to Pittsburgh on Monday.
While Samardzija will likely return next season barring a trade, the fate of manager Dale Sveum is unknown. Team president Theo Epstein is expected to decide whether Sveum, 127-196 in two seasons, will return Monday.
"It's pretty standard at this time of year to take your time to look back at the season and make decisions on what can put the organization in the best position going forward," Epstein said. "This is part of the process. At the same time, we owe it to everyone involved to get it done quickly and move forward. We'll finish up the process on Monday."
Samardzija will try to spoil the Cardinals' hopes with another strong start against them. The right-hander is 1-0 with a 1.71 ERA in his last three matchups and gave up two runs over 8 1/3 innings in a 4-2 win June 18.
Yadier Molina (9 for 17) and Carlos Beltran (5 for 12) have had success against Samardzija but it's unknown if they will start this game or rest.