The Arizona Diamondbacks have seven games left to make a playoff push. With each of those contests amounting to must wins, it helps to be able to squeeze two more starts out of Cy Young Award candidate Brandon Webb.
Webb looks to become the first NL pitcher in three years to win 22 games as the Diamondbacks continue their run at the NL West title when they open a four-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday night.
Arizona (78-77) is 2 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West. With the Dodgers surging down the stretch, catching them is a tall order for the Diamondbacks.
“We realize every day is a must win for us,” Arizona manager Bob Melvin said.
But the Diamondbacks have also been hot, winning six of their last seven, and Webb (21-7, 3.26 ERA) will get two more starts. Webb, who has posted a 1.20 ERA en route to winning his last two outings, is trying to become the first NL pitcher to win 22 games since Dontrelle Willis went 22-10 with Florida in 2005.
“I’m just not trying to be perfect … and just let things happen,” Webb told the Diamondbacks’ official Web site. “I’m focused on controlling what I can control and not worrying about the other stuff.”
Both of Webb’s last two starts were at home, however, and he has an 11.32 ERA in his last two road starts, losing both.
The right-hander gave up three runs - two earned - and eight hits in seven innings as Arizona beat San Francisco 7-6 on Wednesday night.
Webb is 2-4 with a 4.43 ERA in seven starts against the Cardinals, including an 0-2 mark with a 6.75 ERA in three outings at St. Louis.
Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols is batting .238 (5-for-21) against Webb. Pujols is second in the majors with a .349 batting average, but St. Louis (80-75) has been struggling to score runs.
Arizona, meanwhile, had a season-high 19 hits in a 13-4 win over Colorado on Sunday.
Now, the Diamondbacks will face Cardinals starter Todd Wellemeyer (12-8, 3.66), who is 0-2 with an 8.22 ERA in one start and four relief appearances against them.
Wellemeyer has been the victim of poor run support in recent weeks, going 1-4 in his last five starts despite posting a 3.09 ERA and a .200 opponents batting average during that span. The Cardinals have given Wellemeyer an average of 1.4 runs to work with in those contests.
The right-hander allowed three runs and four hits while striking out six in six innings as St. Louis lost 3-0 to Cincinnati on Wednesday night.
St. Louis lost 5-1 to the Chicago Cubs on Sunday, falling for the ninth time in its last 11 games. The Cardinals have scored two runs or less six times in that span.
Poor production at the plate has virtually ended St. Louis’ playoff hopes. The Cardinals are six games back in the NL wild-card race with seven to play.
“It became unfair here as we got to the last month,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa told the team’s official Web site. “We’ve been really going gung ho and overcoming a lot of stuff, but we’re really limping to the finish line, and it kind of makes you angry.”
The Diamondbacks will be facing the Cardinals for the first time since winning two of three games at home from Sept. 1-3.