Called upon in emergency relief his last time out, Jake Westbrook had one of the worst games his career. He’ll have to try to bounce back on the road, where he’s also struggled.
But Westbrook and the St. Louis Cardinals at least have the fortune of facing a Chicago Cubs team in the throes of unprecedented offensive struggles at Wrigley Field on Friday.
Westbrook (7-7, 4.11 ERA) has lost three straight appearances, posting an 11.05 ERA while walking 10 over 14 2-3 innings. He matched a career worst by allowing nine runs as well as 13 hits over 4 2-3 innings of relief in a 13-4 loss to the Dodgers last Wednesday. Westbrook was slated to start the following day but was needed out of the bullpen after starter Shelby Miller was hit by a line drive in the game’s first at-bat.
It was the right-hander’s first relief appearance in more than nine years.
“You want to come in and do what you can and help the team out,” said Westbrook, who is 6-3 in 11 starts versus Chicago with a 3.74 ERA, including a 1-1 mark in three games this year. “Three days’ rest is sufficient for most people. The bottom line is I didn’t do that.”
Westbrook owns a 7.71 ERA while dropping his last four road starts and is 2-6 away from home with a 5.14 ERA, his highest since 2006. He gave up three runs over seven innings in a 3-0 loss at Wrigley Field on July 11.
The bullpen could be stretched thin behind Westbrook after St. Louis (69-51) took two of three from Pittsburgh, logging 16 2-3 innings.
Matt Holliday sealed Thursday’s 6-5 victory, driving in the go-ahead run with a 12th-inning single and bringing the Cardinals within two games of the Pirates. He also doubled earlier in the game to extend his hitting streak to 12 games and is batting .433 with 14 RBIs over his last 18 contests.
“We did a good job of bouncing back,” said Holliday, who is 14 for 34 with three homers versus Chicago this season. “Winning this game could be very important for us.”
The Cubs (52-68) have lost four straight and 11 of 12 at home, where their 23 home wins are baseball’s second-fewest. They’ve also been shut out four times in their last five contests at Wrigley Field and recorded a season-low two hits in a 5-0 loss to Cincinnati on Wednesday.
Chicago is hitting .218 with runners in scoring position during its 1-11 home stretch. Anthony Rizzo is 2 for 9 with men in scoring position in those games and 1 for 15 overall in his last four contests.
“A lot of guys are getting opportunities to step up and take advantage of it,” said Rizzo, who is 5 for 8 with two doubles off Westbrook this year. “That’s something not only myself wants to do, but other guys on this team, especially guys that haven’t been here all year.”
The Cubs will call up Jake Arrieta (1-2, 6.07 ERA) for his second start with the team since being acquired from Baltimore on July 2. He gave up a solo homer and one other hit over six innings in a 3-2 loss to Milwaukee on July 30.
The Cardinals lost two of three in St. Louis last weekend, though the teams have split six meetings in Chicago this year.