Jake Westbrook 's 2013 season has gotten off to a dominant start for the St. Louis Cardinals.
With two impressive outings under his belt, he'll try to carry that success over against a team that has given him trouble when he faces the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night at PNC Park.
The right-hander is 1-7 with a 5.91 ERA in nine career starts against Pittsburgh, with the lone victory coming July 1. He was tagged for seven runs on 11 hits and four walks in five innings in his most recent game versus the Pirates, a 9-0 loss Aug. 28.
The Cardinals (8-5) have won five of six, including a 10-6 victory in the series opener Monday, as they send Westbrook to the mound seeking his 100th career victory.
He is 1-1, though he hasn't given up an earned run in 15 2-3 innings while allowing 11 hits. His shutout in a 10-0 win against the Reds last Wednesday was his first since 2006. The 13-year veteran relied on his sinker as usual, inducing 16 groundball outs from Cincinnati.
"It always means a lot when you can finish what you started," Westbrook said. "The ball was in the zone and really moving a lot. I guess I know when I'm good is when I get a lot of ground balls."
Pittsburgh (6-7) had won three in a row and five of six before Monday's loss, which saw starter James McDonald chased during St. Louis' seven-run second inning.
Five Cardinals recorded a hit in the inning while two others walked.
"I think we really feed off each other," said Allen Craig , who provided a two-run double in the inning. "When one guy has a good at-bat and hits a ball hard I think the next guy, it boosts his confidence and it goes from there."
The Pirates will hope for Jonathan Sanchez to hang around longer Tuesday than McDonald did, but Sanchez hasn't exactly inspired confidence through two starts. Unlike Westbrook, the left-hander is coming off an abysmal showing in which he gave up a career-high nine earned runs and eight hits in 3 1-3 innings during a 10-2 loss at Arizona on Wednesday.
Somehow, the poor outing didn't necessarily seem to rattle Sanchez.
"We have 30 starts out of the year," said Sanchez, who is 2-0 with a 4.62 ERA in five starts against St. Louis. "We're going to have bad outings and we're going to have good outings. You've just got to focus on the next one."
Though they were undone by Monday's big inning from St. Louis, the Pirates appear to be making major offensive strides after a troubling start. Pittsburgh totaled eight runs on 21 hits while going 1-5, but has 38 runs on 67 hits while going 5-2 since.
The Pirates had two runners on with one out in the eighth Monday after scoring two runs, but the potential rally ended with two groundouts. They had trailed the Reds 5-0 Sunday before winning, 10-7.
"I like the way we're playing," manager Clint Hurdle said. "The hiccups we've had off the mound have been challenging but we've been able to handle them so far."
Left fielder Starling Marte has a hit in nine straight games, going 18 for 39 (.462) over that stretch with seven RBIs in his last six games.
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|March 24, 2013||Rafael Furcal||15-Day DL||Right elbow surgery - out for season|
|March 23, 2013||David Freese||15-Day DL||Strained lower back|
|March 23, 2013||David Freese||15-Day DL||Strained lower back|
|March 22, 2013||Jason Motte||15-Day DL||Strained right elbow|
|March 07, 2013||Rafael Furcal||Day-to-Day||Right elbow surgery - out for season|
|February 22, 2013||Chris Carpenter||60-Day DL||Nerve irritation, right shoulder|
|April 09, 2013||Wandy Rodriguez||Day-to-Day||Left game - left leg strain|
|March 26, 2013||Brandon Inge||15-Day DL||Right scapula soreness|
|March 22, 2013||Francisco Liriano||15-Day DL||Fractured right forearm|
|March 22, 2013||Jeff Karstens||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|March 22, 2013||Charlie Morton||15-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|March 20, 2013||Chase d'Arnaud||60-Day DL||Left thumb surgery|
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Jonathan Sanchez didn't look like a guy ready to give the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen a needed night off after the St. Louis Cardinals touched him for two runs in the first inning on Tuesday.
Instead, Mother Nature intervened.
A massive thunderstorm hit at the end of the second inning with the Pirates leading 4-2, and the game was called after a delay of 1 hour, 24 minutes. No makeup date was immediately announced.
The deluge wiped out a promising start for Pittsburgh's offense but the Pirates could certainly use the break after the bullpen did yeoman's work in relief of struggling starter James McDonald on Monday night.
The right-hander gave up eight runs - three earned - in a 10-6 loss but insisted he's not injured.
The struggling McDonald understands his velocity is down but doesn't believe it is injury-related. His fastball - which can top out at 94 mph - rarely ticked about 90 mph against the Cardinals. He isn't panicking, pointing to similar issues early in the 2012 season.
"It was just one of those times you don't feel too well," McDonald said on Tuesday. "It's just one of those times where your body feels beat up."
McDonald fell to 1-2 as his ERA rose to 5.27. While there may be some mechanical issues at work he believes he's also just trying to get into the rhythm of the season. The ball doesn't feel quite right leaving his hand but he thinks he can still get hitters out.
"You don't have your good stuff every single time," he said. "You have to battle through it."
Manager Clint Hurdle allowed McDonald's problems are "perplexing" but he doesn't plan on pulling McDonald from his next scheduled start on Saturday against Atlanta.
"At this time, I don't have any information to lead me in that direction," Hurdle said.
Tuesday night's cancellation could give the Pirates some flexibility.
Sanchez - who came in with a 12.96 ERA - allowed two runs in the first inning but retired the side in order in the second.
Matt Holliday had an RBI single for St. Louis. Garrett Jones , Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez all had RBI singles for Pittsburgh. None of it will count, however, and the game will be replayed in its entirety.
The rainout allows Pittsburgh's depleted bullpen to get a needed day of rest. The Pirates called up reliever Vin Mazzaro from Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday for some help after long relievers Justin Wilson and Bryan Morris worked a combined 6 1-3 innings in relief of McDonald.
Hurdle hoped Sanchez - who made the team out of spring training as a non-roster invitee - would be able work deep enough to get to the setup guys. It hasn't been the best start to the season for the left-hander. He was roughed up by Arizona in his previous start, allowing nine runs in 3 1-3 innings.
It looked like more of the same in the first inning Tuesday. Sanchez walked Cardinals spring training star Shane Robinson on four pitches to start the game. Carlos Beltran followed with a single two pitches later and Holliday dumped Sanchez's next offering into center, bringing home Robinson.
Allen Craig lined out to shortstop Clint Barmes , but the typically solid Barmes made his second error in as many days when his attempt to double off Beltran at second ended up in right field.
Beltran moved to third and then scored on Yadier Molina 's grounder to first.
Pittsburgh, however, had little trouble getting to St. Louis starter Jake Westbrook . The veteran righthander has allowed zero earned runs in 15 2-3 innings this season but is 1-7 with a 5.28 ERA against the Pirates during his career.
Jose Tabata singled with one out, the first of five straight singles by the Pirates. A rare gaffe by the St. Louis defense helped. With runners on first and third and one out, Russell Martin hit a chopper back to the mound and Westbrook threw to second to try and start a double play. Second baseman Matt Carpenter was late covering and was charged with an error when the ball sailed into center as Walker scored.
Both pitchers settled down in the second before the rain starting falling.
NOTES: Pittsburgh RHP Charlie Morton is expected to make a start at extended spring training on Thursday. Morton is recovering from Tommy John surgery. ... The series wraps up Wednesday when Pittsburgh RHP A.J. Burnett (0-2, 3.71 ERA) faces Shelby Miller (2-0, 1.46). ... Before the game, the Pirates held a moment of silence for victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.