With Jake Westbrook taking the mound at Busch Stadium, the St. Louis Cardinals appear to have a solid chance to improve on the best record in baseball.
Westbrook and the Cardinals look for their season-best sixth straight home win Friday night when they try to hand the San Diego Padres a 10th consecutive road loss.
Although St. Louis (57-36) has dealt with injuries to Westbrook, Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia , the team's rotation played a key role in its first-half success, sporting a 3.33 ERA that was the second-best in baseball.
The Cardinals also won seven of their last nine to take a one-game lead over Pittsburgh in the NL Central."We've had adversity," manager Mike Matheny said. "We've had plenty of things not go exactly how we wanted to. It's just important to keep playing the game."
Westbrook (5-4, 2.88 ERA), who missed more than a month due to right elbow inflammation, has certainly had things go his way at Busch Stadium. The right-hander has been nearly untouchable there, going 3-0 with a 0.31 ERA in four starts.
A second-inning home run by Miami's Logan Morrison on July 5 is the only earned run he's allowed in 29 innings at home.
NL West-worst San Diego (42-54) can't play much worse than it was in the weeks before the break. The Padres totaled 34 runs while batting .165 with runners in scoring position over a 1-14 stretch before a 10-1 win over San Francisco on Sunday.
San Diego was in second place, just 2 1/2 games behind Arizona, on June 29. It's now 8 1/2 back."Obviously as players and competitors we're not happy with losing, and that's why it's been difficult," Carlos Quentin said.
The Padres are looking for better results on this 10-game road swing after dropping the last nine games on their latest trip. Their last double-digit skid away from home wasn't so long ago, Aug. 24-Sept. 10, 2011.
Jason Marquis (9-4, 3.77) will attempt to end this slide, though he's 0-2 with a 4.18 ERA over his last five starts - walking 17 in 22 innings - after winning eight consecutive decisions April 28-June 15.
The former Cardinal has pitched well against his old club, going 5-2 with a 3.77 ERA in seven starts since leaving St. Louis. The right-hander gave up one earned run and three hits over six innings in a 4-2 home win over St. Louis on May 20.
That was the Padres' lone win in that series, as the Cardinals took two of three with Carlos Beltran going 6 for 14. The All-Star outfielder is also batting .462 with five homers and nine RBIs in his last seven home games against the Padres.
Catcher Yadier Molina , who tops the NL with a .341 batting average, had been hitting 6 for 52 (.115) over a 15-game span versus San Diego before going 4 for 5 in a 5-3 win in the final game of that May series.
San Diego's Jedd Gyorko went 2 for 4 with a homer in that contest, but he's working his way back after a month on the disabled list with a strained right groin. He returned last Friday in San Francisco and went hitless in 11 at-bats over the weekend.
Teammate Chris Denorfia is 10 for 18 in his last five games versus the Cardinals, though he's 4 for 23 in nine career games in St. Louis.
The Cardinals have won 16 of 19 there against the Padres.
|San Diego Padres|
|July 12, 2013||Kyle Blanks||15-Day DL||Left Achilles tendinitis|
|July 07, 2013||Yasmani Grandal||60-Day DL||Right knee sprain|
|June 22, 2013||Clayton Richard||60-Day DL||Left shoulder surgery - out for season|
|June 17, 2013||Everth Cabrera||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
|June 17, 2013||Everth Cabrera||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
|June 15, 2013||Carlos Quentin||Day-to-Day||Sore left shoulder|
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|July 11, 2013||Matt Holliday||Day-to-Day||Left game - right hamstring|
|July 02, 2013||Matt Holliday||Day-to-Day||Stiff neck/back|
|May 26, 2013||John Gast||15-Day DL||Left shoulder tightness|
|May 26, 2013||Carlos Beltran||Day-to-Day||Left shoulder soreness|
|May 25, 2013||John Gast||Day-to-Day||Left game - left shoulder tightness|
|May 21, 2013||Fernando Salas||15-Day DL||Right shoulder irritation|
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Jake Westbrook did a little bit of everything Friday night against the San Diego Padres .
A career .116 hitter, Westbrook recorded the first multihit game of his career with two singles and a double. He picked off a runner in the fifth inning. Perhaps most importantly, the St. Louis starter lasted 6 1-3 innings and allowed just two runs, eight hits and four walks in the Cardinals' 9-6 victory.
"Overall, it went well," Westbrook said. "It was a good start to the second half."
The right-hander, who scored twice and had an RBI, surpassed his hit output for the year and raised his batting from .100 to .217.
"I ran into a few, I guess," Westbrook said. "It's the first time I ran the bases that much since high school."
Westbrook has usually resembled a pitcher who spent most of his career in the American League without swinging a bat. Westbrook came to the Cardinals after breaking in with the New York Yankees and then spending nine seasons in Cleveland.
St. Louis manager Mike Matheny appreciated the offensive outburst.
"The hits, we'll always take them," Matheny said. "They started two rallies and a big RBI in another (inning).
"These guys, they take their at-bats seriously. They put a lot of pride in them. It's frustrating to them. They don't get enough repetitions to consistently be able to do what they want to do. They go working hard and some time it pays off like tonight."
After rookie Carlos Martinez allowed three runs in the ninth to make it a three-run game, All-Star Edward Mujica got the last two outs to record his 27th save in 29 chances.
Fellow All-Star Matt Carpenter continued his strong season with three hits and three RBIs.
"I'm just trying to have good at-bats, play good defense and do whatever I can to get on base," Carpenter said.
Two other St. Louis All-Stars, Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina , each drove in two runs, Beltran contributing two sacrifice flies and Molina a two-run double in the seventh.
St. Louis reached a season-best 22 games over .500 (58-36) and owns the best winning percentage in the majors (.617).
The Padres' lone All-Star representative, Everth Cabrera , drove in two runs with a two-run single off Westbrook in the seventh. San Diego, which lost 18 of 22 to conclude the first half, fell to 15-32 on the road and 74-149 in St. Louis (6-19 at new Busch Stadium).
"We got 13 hits and we put some stress on them," manager Bud Black said. "We forced them to bring in their closer and we started hitting the ball with some authority."
Former Cardinal Jason Marquis (9-5) lost his third straight. Marquis, who has not won since beating Arizona 6-4 on June 15, was touched for six runs on eight hits and three walks.
Marquis blanked the Cardinals the first two innings before Westbrook led off the third with a single to center. He later scored on Beltran's sacrifice fly to center.
Two innings later, Westbrook started another rally when he doubled over right fielder Will Venable 's head to begin the fifth. Carpenter followed with an RBI double to the gap in left center and he scored on Beltran's sacrifice fly one out later that made it 3-0.
The Cardinals broke it open and chased Marquis by scoring three times in the sixth. With the bases loaded and one out, Westbrook coaxed a single through the middle to drive in Matt Adams . Carpenter then drove home two more with an RBI single to center.
Notes: Edinson Volquez (6-8), who set a new career high by making 20 starts in the first half, pitches his first game in the second half when he faces the Cardinals' Lance Lynn (11-4) Saturday night. . . . San Diego started a 10-day, 10-game road trip Friday. The Padres were 1-9 on their last 10-game trip. . . . Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday missed his fourth straight game due to a lingering right hamstring issue. . . . Padres outfielder Jedd Gyorko was 0-for-12 since coming off the DL before singling in the fourth. . . . Molina's double in the seventh was his 28th, matching his output last year.