The St. Louis Cardinals are back in the Gateway City after a lengthy sojourn and will commence a nine-game homestand tonight with the first of three straight interleague matchups with the Cleveland Indians.
Taking the mound in tonight's series opener for the Cardinals will be former Indians starter Jake Westbrook. Westbrook spent nine-plus seasons with the Tribe before coming to St. Louis via a three-team, four-player deal in July of 2010. Westbrook, who went 2-0 with a 2.73 earned run average against the AL Central last year, is 0-3 with an 8.28 ERA in his last five starts overall -- all St. Louis defeats.
The Cardinals hope Westbrook can turn it on Friday and get back to his usual dominant form. In his latest outing on Sunday, Westbrook allowed five runs in five innings for a second straight start in a 6-1 loss against the New York Mets at Citi Field. The setback dropped him to 4-5 in 11 starts this season and raised his ERA to 4.23. Westbrook is 2-1 in five home starts.
St. Louis went just 4-6 on a 10-game road trip against the Braves, Mets and Astros, and recently took two of three from Houston. Cardinals starters Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn have pitched the ballclub to back-to-back victories, while Lynn toed the rubber in Thursday's 14-2 pounding of the 'Stros at Minute Maid Park. Lynn struck out a career-high 11 batters and posted his team- leading ninth win of the season with six innings of two-run ball.
"Lance was good. You could tell he felt really good today," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. "The ball was jumping out of his hand."
Reigning World Series MVP David Freese hit a grand slam to cap a seven-run seventh inning and added a two-run homer in the ninth, while Rafael Furcal finished 3-for-5 with a pair of RBI, Carlos Beltran hit his NL-best 16th homer, had two RBI and scored twice and Shane Robinson added a two-run shot for St. Louis, which has won three of four games and is tied with Pittsburgh at two games off the lead in the NL Central. Cincinnati is currently on top in the division.
Allen Craig collected three hits, two runs batted in and scored twice in the win. Yadier Molina posted a hit and a run scored. and is 15-for-39 with two home runs and nine RBI in his last 11 games.
The Cardinals will also host the White Sox and Royals on their homestand.
Cleveland opened a nine-game road trip by taking two of three in Detroit and is 1 1/2 games behind Chicago in the AL Central.
The Indians, however, are coming off Thursday's 7-5 setback at Comerica Park in which starting pitcher Derek Lowe was roughed up for seven runs and nine hits over five innings.
"They took advantage of a lot of poor pitches," Lowe said. "A lot of sinkers up in the zone and they were ultra-aggressive in the first inning, hence the reason they were up four runs in the first. That is a pretty big hole."
Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Lopez both knocked in a pair of runs for the Indians, who have lost eight of 12 games. Michael Brantley extended his hitting streak to 15 games with a 1-for-4 performance and is batting .357 with 14 RBI during the run. He had a 19-game streak from Aug. 30-Sept. 19, 2010.
Cleveland, which will also visit Cincinnati, is slated to send Josh Tomlin to the mound tonight and he is 2-3 with a 5.32 earned run average in eight games, seven of which have been starts. Tomlin lost to Minnesota the last time out in a 7-4 decision on Saturday and gave up five runs and 10 hits in six innings.
Tomlin, a right-hander, was coming off a win over Kansas City and has never faced the Cardinals in his career. He is 1-0 in three games (2 starts) away from Progressive Field this season and 3-0 with a 2.33 ERA in four interleague starts during his career.
Cleveland and St. Louis are meeting for the first time since the Indians won two of three meetings at home back in 2009. Cleveland has gone 12-5 all-time against St. Louis, which includes a 6-3 mark as the guest.