Mets-Cardinals Preview

The Associated Press

With the New York Mets continuing to struggle offensively, John Gast couldn't have asked for a better spot to make his major league debut for the St. Louis Cardinals.

The left-hander hopes to fit right into the best starting rotation in baseball and help the Cardinals to their 11th win in 13 games Tuesday night against the visiting Mets.

NL Central-leading St. Louis (24-13) is expected to place right-hander Jake Westbrook on the 15-day disabled list with elbow inflammation and call up Gast for his first big league start as this four-game series continues.

Westbrook had been trying to ignore elbow pain since spring training, but finally decided to take a break after allowing three earned runs in 5 1-3 innings in a 5-4 win over the Cubs on Wednesday.

The injury opens the door for Gast, who looks to make the most of his opportunity in a St. Louis rotation that leads the majors with a 2.25 ERA.

"He just continues to improve," manager Mike Matheny told the team's official website. "He's been just a quality pitcher. He's got a good arm and knows how to pitch. He's smart."

Gast will try to pick up where he left off at Triple-A Memphis, where he was 3-1 with 1.16 ERA in six starts.

The 2010 sixth-round pick from Florida State was named the organization's minor league player of the month in April after opening the season with 32 consecutive scoreless innings.

"I obviously started pretty well," Gast said. "It's been unbelievable so far. Just another year of getting better and executing more and more, a higher percentage of the pitches."

With his parents expected to make the trip from Florida, the 24-year-old Gast hopes to take advantage of his matchup against a light-hitting New York team that has totaled 10 runs during a four-game losing streak.

The Mets (14-21) were limited to four hits for the second consecutive game, falling 6-3 in Monday's series opener. It was the 10th loss in 13 games at Busch Stadium for New York, which has averaged 2.6 runs and hit .202 while dropping six of eight overall.

Starting in center field just after being signed by the club, Rick Ankiel provided little help by going 0 for 3 with two strikeouts in his Mets debut.

Catcher John Buck struck out three times and has whiffed 13 times during his 2-for-25 drought over the last seven games.

Daniel Murphy, though, broke out with three hits - including a two-run double - after going 3 for 27 in his previous eight contests. He's 9 for 17 with a home run and four RBIs in his last four contests versus St. Louis.

Scheduled starter Dillon Gee (2-4, 5.55 ERA) had allowed eight runs and 16 hits over 11 innings in his prior two starts before giving up one run and five hits over five innings, leaving without a decision in a 3-2 win over Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Gee has yielded four earned runs and nine hits over 14 innings in two career starts against the Cardinals, though he'll make his first appearance at Busch Stadium.

Matt Carpenter, who had two hits and two RBIs Monday, is 9 for 19 with two doubles and three RBIs in his last five home games.

Matt Holliday went 2 for 4 with a homer in the opener and is 6 for 15 in his past four against New York.

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