Westbrook tries to snap his three-game skid against Pittsburgh and help St. Louis build some much-needed momentum Friday night as this four-game series continues at Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals (68-63) - like the Pirates - don’t have to think back too far to remember being one of three contenders atop the Central, but both clubs have fallen well behind Milwaukee since sharing the division lead July 25.
Pittsburgh’s free fall has it 16 games out and in fourth place, while St. Louis’ chances seem to be hanging by a thread. But after being swept in three games this week by the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers - on the heels of road series losses against the Pirates and Cubs - the Cardinals bounced back by beating Pittsburgh 8-4 on Thursday.
“You’ve got to be a tough competitor to not dwell on the negative,” manager Tony La Russa said. “That’s why he’s going to be a real good player for a long time here.”
With Milwaukee idle, St. Louis accomplished something that’s been tough to do for the past month - it gained a half-game. Still, it’s 9 1/2 games out with 31 to play.
Three games at Miller Park await starting Tuesday, but the Cardinals would feel a lot better about themselves if they could add three more victories against the Pirates (61-69) heading into that series.
Winning on Friday may not be easy with Westbrook (10-7, 4.70 ERA) on the mound.
The right-hander is 0-3 with a 7.47 ERA versus Pittsburgh since arriving in St. Louis at the 2010 trade deadline, including his worst start since the All-Star break just last week. Westbrook gave up five runs and nine hits - including homers to Xavier Paul(notes) and Ryan Doumit(notes) - over 5 2-3 innings Aug. 15 in a 6-2 loss at PNC Park.
Doumit is 6 for 8 lifetime against Westbrook.
Westbrook, though, bounced back Sunday at Wrigley Field by holding the Cubs to two runs over seven innings in a 6-2 victory, his first since July 26.
“I thought (Westbrook) came up big,” La Russa said. “He knew what was at stake here. So he gave us a lift. He went out there and gave us exactly what we needed.”
James McDonald(notes) (8-6, 4.21) held St. Louis to two runs over 5 2-3 innings in beating Westbrook last week, and was also solid Sunday against Cincinnati, giving up three runs and three hits over six. The Pirates’ bullpen couldn’t hold a one-run lead in a 5-4 loss, but McDonald was pleased with his performance.
“(I was) just attacking hitters,” McDonald told the Pirates’ official website. “I went off their aggressiveness and was throwing the ball in the zone.”
McDonald is 1-1 with a 2.76 ERA in three starts versus St. Louis. The lone homer he’s allowed in those 16 1-3 innings came off the bat of Allen Craig(notes), who is 14 for 30 with three home runs in his last eight games against the Pirates.