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Westbrook shuts down Cubs in Cardinals' 4-1 win

The SportsXchange

ST. LOUIS -- When you're a sinkerball pitcher like Jake Westbrook, location is everything.

It was an issue Friday night in Miami, where he lost to the worst team in the majors. It wasn't a problem for him on Wednesday night.

Recording 15 outs on grounders and holding the Chicago Cubs to an unearned run in seven innings, Westbrook pitched St. Louis to a 4-1 win at Busch Stadium.

National League hitting leader Yadier Molina snapped a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the sixth inning with a two-run homer off former teammate Edwin Jackson (3-9) and Pete Kozma added an RBI single later in the inning off reliever Carlos Villanueva.

But the story was Westbrook (3-2), who may have authored his finest outing since blanking Cincinnati 10-0 on April 10.

Making just his second start since returning from an elbow injury that forced him to spend more than a month on the disabled list, the veteran right-hander allowed just two singles and had Chicago (29-41) beating the ball into the dirt all night.

It was a stark contrast from his first appearance after his DL stint. In a 5-4 loss to the Marlins, Westbrook surrendered eight hits and five runs over five innings, routinely leaving his trademark sinker over the plate's middle and getting rocked for one line drive after another.

"I felt good," he said. "I was locating better than I did last start, which really helps. Down in the zone was important. I felt like I should have been capable of pitching a lot better last start, but I was able to mix it up enough (tonight) to get some ground balls."

Westbrook walked three and struck out two in the 101st win of his major league career. Cardinal outfielders recorded just two putouts during Westbrook's stint on the mound.

"He kept pounding the bottom of the zone and getting ground balls," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said.

Even the run Westbrook allowed in the second inning was the result of a rare bad play by the Cardinals. Matt Carpenter turned an almost certain 4-6-3 double play into a two-base throwing error when he flipped the ball several feet over Kozma's head, giving the Cubs runners at second and third.

Darwin Barney's bases-loaded sacrifice fly to short center field brought Anthony Rizzo home to make it 1-1. Jon Jay's throw beat Rizzo by about five feet, but Rizzo kicked the ball out of Molina's glove for a second error that allowed the other runners to move up.

However, Molina more than made up for that miscue four innings later. With Allen Craig at first after a fielder's choice, Molina lashed a 1-2 fastball over the left field wall for his fifth homer and a 3-1 St. Louis lead.

The blast continued Molina's ownership of Jackson, against whom he's 9-for-15 in his career with three homers and six RBIs.

"Experience is the key for me," Molina said. "I was looking inside and that's where he put that pitch."

Molina is 6-for-11 with five RBIs in the series and leads the league in batting average at .365, 86 points over his career mark. Chicago manager Dale Sveum referred to him as the league's Most Valuable Player after the game.

"He's in a good place offensively," Matheny said. "He's got a good approach. He knows what he wants to do every time he's up there."

St. Louis jumped on top in the bottom of the first against Jackson when Craig singled Carpenter home from second with one out. It was the 53rd RBI for Craig.

Jackson steadied over the next four innings, allowing just two hits and matching Westbrook pitch for pitch. But Molina turned the game around for good with one precise swing.

"It's a tie game and it came down to one hit," Cubs third baseman Luis Valbuena said. "It's a tough loss for us, but we just have to bounce back tomorrow night and forget about this one."

NOTES: Sveum said the team could make a roster move by Friday to add a position player and send a reliever down to the minors. The Cubs' active roster has just 12 position players and 13 pitchers, including eight relievers. ... St. Louis announced the signing of its top draft pick, LHP Marco Gonzales of Gonzaga University. Gonzales threw a bullpen session before Wednesday night's game and will start his pro career in the Gulf Coast League. ... Tuesday night's loss was the Cardinals' eighth in June. They had just seven in May.

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