Coming off his first complete game of the season, Jake Westbrook aims to win his third straight start and avoid his first career loss to the Marlins as the St. Louis Cardinals open up a three-game series this evening against hosting Miami.
Westbrook went the distance for the first time since May 16, 2010 while with the Indians on Wednesday in Detroit, with the Cardinals right-hander allowing just one unearned run in the five-hitter. It was the 14th complete game of Westbrook's career.
"To give the bullpen a rest and go out there and finish the game is always nice," said Westbrook, who evened his season record at 6-6 to go along with a 3.83 earned run average in 14 starts this season.
Westbrook has faced the Marlins four previous times in his career and all four have been quality starts. The 34-year-old is 1-0 with a 2.96 ERA in the matchup and that includes an outing in August of 2010 in which Westbrook matched a career best with nine strikeouts.
Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco hasn't been as fortunate as Westbrook as of late, dropping three straight starts for the first time this season. He'll be glad to face a National League opponent as each loss came in interleague play.
Facing the Red Sox for the second straight outing, the right-hander logged his shortest appearance of 2012 by lasting a mere 3 1/3 innings. He was charged with a season-high nine runs as well as nine hits while falling to 2-6 with a 7.36 ERA in his last eight starts.
In 14 overall outings this season, Nolasco is 6-6 with a 5.16 ERA.
While Westbrook tries to avoid his first loss against the Marlins, Nolasco will be looking to record his first victory versus the Cardinals. The 29-year- old holds a lifetime record of 0-4 with a 6.19 ERA in seven meetings (6 starts) and has given up 10 hits in three straight and four the past five encounters.
Nolasco will also try to pitch the Marlins to consecutive wins for the first time since June 2-3 after Miami picked up just its fifth win of this month with Sunday's 9-0 victory over Toronto. The Marlins halted a six-game slide thanks to seven scoreless innings from Mark Buehrle.
John Buck and Greg Dobbs supplied homers for the Marlins, who after going 21-8 in May have repeated last year's disastrous June in which they lost 23 games for the worst month in club history. Their current struggles have them eight games out of first place in the National League East.
"For the last two weeks I've been trying to be positive," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. "It's nice to see these guys having fun on the field. It's been awhile since we felt this way after a game."
The Cardinals also enter this series with momentum after wrapping up a three- game sweep of the Royals with Sunday's 11-8 victory. Carlos Beltran capped his first trip back to Kansas City with a three-run homer against his former team, while Yadier Molina added a solo shot.
"We know that as an offensive team that we're going to be able to score runs," Beltran said.
The offense bailed out starter Lance Lynn, who allowed six runs over 5 1/3 innings of a no-decision.
St. Louis is two games out of first place in the NL Central.
The Cardinals and Marlins are meeting for the first time since a one-game set on April 4 that opened up Miami's brand-new Marlins Park. St. Louis spoiled the debut of the ballpark with a 4-1 win, its sixth victory in a row over Miami.