The St. Louis Cardinals already quieted the bats of the Milwaukee Brewers in one series this season. With a starting rotation that continues to roll along with strong performances, they'll try to do it again.
Jake Westbrook will take the ball Thursday night for the opener of a four-game set at Miller Park.St. Louis took two of three from the Brewers in St. Louis from April 12-14, shutting them out twice in the process. Cardinals starters posted a 1.29 ERA over those three games and come in looking more than capable of producing similar results. Their starters' ERA is at 1.32 over the last nine.Lance Lynn turned in the latest gem, throwing seven innings of one-run ball in St. Louis' 4-2 win over Cincinnati on Wednesday."The starting pitching has been a constant for us and he's helped lead the way," manager Mike Matheny said. "You can't ask the starters to do more than they've done."Westbrook (1-1, 0.98 ERA) hasn't been charged with an earned run in three of his four starts, including his six shutout innings against Pittsburgh on Saturday as he scattered six hits without a walk. His bid for a second victory was squandered by St. Louis' relievers, which gave up five runs in three innings."I felt like I was throwing the ball pretty well. I had a good sinker," said Westbrook, who is 2-4 with a 3.06 ERA in eight career starts versus Milwaukee. "I was able to get some early outs and I stayed out of trouble for the most part."While the starters for the Cardinals (16-11) have sparkled, the Brewers (14-12) were again let down by their bullpen Wednesday.John Axford was the primary culprit in a late collapse as he was charged with four runs in the eighth inning of a 6-4 loss to the Pirates. It was the Brewers' fifth blown save and the second for Axford, snapping Milwaukee's eight-game home winning streak and foiling its bid for a sweep of Pittsburgh.Manager Ron Roenicke removed Axford (0-3, 10.32 ERA) as the team's closer after three rough appearances to start the year, but he had posted a 1.23 ERA over eight appearances prior to Wednesday's debacle. Roenicke even said last week he was considering the possibility of reinstating Axford -- who was booed off the mound Wednesday -- as Milwaukee's closer."I don't think it's necessarily fair," Roenicke said of the crowd's treatment of Axford. "This guy's been pitching really well for us. I still obviously like him a lot. I think every time I put him out there, I think he's going to do a good job."The Brewers counter Westbrook with Wily Peralta (2-1, 5.02 ERA), who will make his first career start against St. Louis. Peralta has won two in a row, allowing five runs over 12 2/3 innings after posting a 6.19 ERA through his first three starts.Carlos Gomez enters on an eight-game hitting streak during which he's 15 for 29 (.517) with three homers and five RBIs, though he's 1 for 5 against Westbrook.Ryan Braun is 10 for 19 lifetime off of Westbrook but is hitting just .220 with 15 strikeouts in his last 10 games versus the Cardinals.