Holliday's homer lifts Westbrook to fifth straight

Holliday's homer lifts Westbrook to fifth straight

Holliday's homer lifts Westbrook to fifth straight
PHILADELPHIA -- Manager Mike Matheny was asked before Saturday's game how much of the Cardinals' recent hitting woes -- they had exactly four hits in each of their last three games in which they scored a combined four runs -- were due to the high quality of pitching they had recently faced. Matheny quickly pointed out that his starting staff was just as talented, if not more, as the ones they had faced.

Case in point: Jake Westbrook.

Westbrook worked 7 2/3 innings and allowed just one run on four hits in the Cardinals' 4-1 win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday. In all, Westbrook, allowed just three flyouts, struck out three and benefited from 17 groundouts.

"Jake was as good as I think we've seen him," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "You could tell his sinker was really falling off the table. Lots of ground balls and lots of action for the guys that made the plays. He was very good and could have kept going, but couldn't ask him to do much more."

"Had a good sinker and a good split tonight," said Westbrook, who won his fifth consecutive start. "They would hit ground balls and my defense played well behind me. We put the young guy [Ryan Jackson at second base in his Major League debut] in and he played well, and that was good to see."

"The umpire had a low strike zone, but at the same time Westbrook kept the ball down real good," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "He had a good sinker. He had a real good sinker. He pitched for me before in Cleveland. He got a low pitch count all night. The reason was he did throw enough strikes and we were chasing his sinker. We hit a lot of ground balls. We didn't really hit him very well."

Through five innings, the Cardinals made Phillies starter Cliff Lee work and work hard. The veteran lefty may have retired 12 straight after a leadoff double in the second by Yadier Molina, but that proved more the byproduct of good defense behind Lee than precision on his part.

In fact, Lee entered the sixth having thrown 74 pitches compared to Westbrook's more manageable 61. Add in a pair of threats in the first two innings that the Cardinals could not exploit and without a box score in front of you, it felt as if the Cardinals were in control.

Down, 1-0, Jon Jay legged out an infield single to open the sixth. Allen Craig followed with a drive to right that hit off the top of the wall to move Jay to third and bring Matt Holliday to the plate. Holliday followed Craig's lead, only his ball just cleared the restraining fence atop the right-field wall for a three-run home run that gave the Cardinals a 3-1 lead.

"It's hard to pull the ball against him," said Holliday, who had his 11th three-hit game of the season. "He forces you to hit a lot of ground balls if you try to pull him. Allen and I are both guys that try to stay inside of the ball. He gave us pitches we were able to do that with.

"You really have no chance against Cliff Lee unless you capitalize on the balls he leaves out over the plate. You try to hit them to the middle and opposite field. When he pitches in, he has that natural cross-fire that's hard to square up on."

With the cushion provided by Holliday, Westbrook settled in and dominated a Phillies lineup struggling to get out of its own way. Through six innings, the Phillies managed just three hits off Westbrook, including a first-inning single by Chase Utley originally ruled an error on Jackson.

Jackson came up billed as a solid defensive player, but on that play in the first and an error in the fourth, he seemed to be fighting himself. That changed with three stellar plays later in the game, including two after the Cardinals had taken the lead in the sixth.

"I was laughing after Jimmy [Rollins] hit the first ball right at him," Westbrook said. "I thought, 'Well, here we go.'"

Still, Utley's hit allowed Domonic Brown, who had walked with one out, to reach third in the first. Ryan Howard followed with a ground ball to Jackson, who flipped it to Rafael Furcal for the force. Furcal failed to get Howard for the double play after Utley barreled through him at second and the Phillies held a 1-0 lead.

Westbrook worked into the eighth before being lifted with two outs.

Mike Radano is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.