PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jake Westbrook is having a season to savor.
He wants to keep it going deep into October.
Matt Holliday hit a three-run homer and Westbrook won his fifth straight start to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a 4-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday night.
The World Series champion Cardinals are in the thick of the wild-card hunt and Westbrook gave them a needed 7 2-3 strong innings. Westbrook (12-8) allowed four hits, walked two and struck out three and has won five straight starts for the first time in his career.
The Cardinals are trying to make a run at defending at their championship and Westbrook has helped keep their playoff dreams afloat. He’s showed his durability with 12 straight starts of at least six innings, and matched his win total from 2011 (12-9) in 10 fewer starts (33 in 2011; 23 in 2012).
“He was as good as we’ve seen him,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “His sinker was falling off the table.”
Jason Motte struck out two in a scoreless ninth for his 26th save.
Cliff Lee (2-7) retired 12 straight batters before the Cardinals tagged him for consecutive hits to open the sixth inning. Holliday followed with a shot to right for his 22nd homer of the season.
“The way Jake pitched, he deserved to win,” Holliday said.
Lee has allowed eight homers over his last three home starts and 19 overall on the season. Lee gave up 18 homers in 232 2-3 innings last season.
He remained winless at home this season.
Staked to a 1-0 lead, Lee was cruising and had his first home victory since September 5, 2011, in sight until Holliday took him deep. Carlos Beltran added an RBI single in the eighth to make it 4-1 and chase the lefty. Lee allowed 10 hits, walked none and struck out four in 7-plus innings.
He left two runners stranded in the first inning and stranded another runner at third in the second.
Lee, a 17-game winner last season, was expected to form a trio of aces with Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels that would keep the Phillies in contention for a sixth straight playoff spot.
It hasn’t worked out that way and the Phillies have disappointed.
“I had the game in hand,” Lee said.
Westbrook left after allowing a two-out single in the eighth. Marc Rzepczynski retired Chase Utley on a pop up to end the inning.
“I got a lot of ground balls and the defense was working for me,” Westbrook said.
Westbrook allowed his only run in the first inning on Ryan Howard’s fielder’s choice. Utley’s hard slide into second rattled shortstop Rafael Furcal on his throw to get Howard, allowing Dom Brown to score from third.
The Phillies never had a runner reach third after the first inning.
“Our offense was really weak tonight,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
Holliday gave Westbrook all the run support he needed with a homer that barely cleared the right field wall and gave him 79 RBIs. Beltran leads the National League with 82 RBIs.
“Those two guys have been carrying the load,” Matheny said.
NOTES: The Phillies honored stars of their past, including Bob Boone, Larry Bowa and Mike Schmidt. Tim McCarver threw the first pitch to Steve Carlton. Brent Musburger was the guest umpire. Musburger was a minor league umpire for McCarver’s first professional game for Waterloo in 1959. … 3B Placido Polanco, on the disabled list since July with lower back inflammation, will travel with the team on next week’s road trip and will likely need a rehab assignment before he returns to the Phillies. … Cardinals 2B Ryan Jackson made his major league debut. … Philadelphia sends Vance Worley (6-7) to the mound against Lance Lynn (13-5) in Sunday’s finale.