Indians-Cardinals Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated June 08, 2012
Jake Westbrook was happy to join a playoff contender when the St. Louis Cardinals acquired him from the Cleveland Indians two years ago. The veteran right-hander would be happy to win a game at this point. With the Cardinals back from a 10-game trip, the struggling Westbrook gets his first start against his former team Friday night when the Indians visit Busch Stadium. From 2001-10, only CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee had more wins in an Indians uniform than Westbrook, and only Sabathia made more starts than the right-hander during that stretch. After spending nearly his entire MLB career to that point in Cleveland, Westbrook said he was sad but also optimistic about a three-team deal July 31, 2010, that sent him to St. Louis. "I'm excited to go to a club that's contending for a playoff spot and pitch in some meaningful ballgames," Westbrook said at the time. Westbrook did in last year's World Series - making two scoreless relief appearances to help the Cardinals win the title - but he's fallen upon tougher times lately. He's 0-3 with an 8.28 ERA in his last five starts. St. Louis (30-28) has lost each of those games, most recently Sunday's 6-1 defeat to the New York Mets after Westbrook surrendered five runs in five-plus innings. Westbrook (4-5, 4.23 ERA) has been pitching with a cut on his middle finger, but he's not using that as an excuse. "I'm perfectly fine," he told the Cardinals' official website. The Indians (30-26), meanwhile, have to feel good about where they are in the standings - just 1 1/2 games off Chicago's AL Central lead - as they make their first visit to St. Louis since 2006. Cleveland opened its nine-game trip by taking two of three from Detroit. "It was a good series overall, but seven (runs allowed) was just too many for us today," manager Manny Acta said after his team lost 7-5 on Thursday. Friday's scheduled starter Josh Tomlin (2-3, 5.32) gave up too many hits (10) and runs (five) in his last start during Saturday's 7-4 loss to Minnesota. "Everything I threw up there (during the Twins' four-run first inning), they were taking it or putting a good swing on it," the right-hander told the Indians' official website after his second start since a stint on the disabled list with right wrist soreness. This will be the first time Tomlin - 3-0 with a 2.33 ERA in four interleague starts - faces the Cardinals. The same will be true should Indians closer Chris Perez, the major league leader with 19 saves, get the call during this three-game set. Perez, a former Cardinals draft pick, spent 2008 and part of 2009 with St. Louis before being traded to Cleveland. "It's just another game for me," Perez said. "It's not like I helped them win anything." Third baseman David Freese did. The 2011 World Series and NLCS MVP went 7 for 17 as the Cardinals won three of the last four on their trip, hitting a grand slam and a two-run shot in Thursday's 14-2 win at Houston. It was Freese's first career multi-homer game. Carlos Beltran hit his NL-best 16th homer Thursday. Indians center fielder Michael Brantley will try to extend his hitting streak to 16. He's batting .357 (20 for 56) with 14 RBIs during that stretch. Cleveland won two of three June 12-14, 2009, the last time these teams met.
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