Jockeying for position in a three-horse race in the National League Central, the Cardinals are well aware that they can't afford to send a beleaguered and struggling pitcher to the mound every five days in a pennant race.
So with Jake Westbrook set to take the mound Wednesday in the rubber match with the Brewers in Milwaukee, St. Louis remains optimistic that the right-hander, who has fallen on hard times of late, will turn things around, but that doesn't mean the club will be willing to accept the same results for much longer.
Since improving to 7-4 on July 24 with a victory against the Phillies, Westbrook's performance has fallen off dramatically, with the 35-year-old losing each of his past four starts while his ERA ballooned from 2.95 to 4.35. His ERA in August alone is 11.02.
"Obviously everybody has concern when we see that he's going through things that feel right, he's going about his business the right way, and he continues to struggle," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We're not so optimistic that we're oblivious. We're paying attention. It also does us no good to sit here and throw extra pressure on a guy that he's got to accomplish this by this date, or that. What we do is stick with our theme: You go out there and give us a chance today, let's see what you've got."
If Westbrook is going to turn his season around, Wednesday would be an ideal place to start. Of all the NL teams the right-hander has faced more than four times, Westbrook has his best stats against the Brewers. In nine starts against Milwaukee, he boasts a 2.89 ERA with 35 strikeouts in 56 innings. He has faced the Brewers once this year and earned a win by tossing six innings and giving up just one run.
This time around, however, he'll face a new look with Ryan Braun suspended, and Rickie Weeks and Carlos Gomez hurt.
"It's a different lineup, a few guys that are out or hurt or whatnot," Westbrook said. "But they've still got a good club and they still play well here. It's always a battle, no matter who you're playing or where you're playing. It's just a matter of going out there and doing what I need to do to be successful."
Opposing Westbrook for Milwaukee will be Tom Gorzelanny, who is coming off a rough outing against the Reds. The southpaw surrendered five runs on six hits over 4 2/3 innings, just one start after working seven shutout frames against the Mariners.
"It turned out to be one of those days we call a 'battle day,' where you fight yourself to make pitches and try to make outs," Gorzelanny said afterward. "Even if it takes 10 pitches, you try to make an out. Obviously, they took advantage of that."
Cardinals: Carpenter, Craig rest up
Matheny shuffled his lineup Tuesday, sitting regulars Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig with Wednesday's matinee finale looming.
"Some guys that look like they could use a day," Matheny said. "Every one of them said the exact same thing: They want to keep playing. That's exactly what you want to hear. But when it doesn't look right, you know that physically there are some things they're trying to fight through, too. You're just trying to find days."
• Matheny said Tuesday that Yadier Molina was day to day, but would not say if the catcher would get Wednesday off. Molina started Tuesday night behind the plate and hit fifth, going 2-for-4 with a two-run homer, double and two runs scored.
Molina is 6-for-9 with a homer, two doubles, three RBIs and three runs scored this series.
Brewers: Francisco gets breather
Sean Halton started at first base for the Brewers on Tuesday, giving slugging Juan Francisco a break amid a serious strikeout binge.
Francisco went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts Sunday against the Reds and Monday against the Cardinals, making him the third player this season to earn a so-called "golden sombrero" in consecutive games.
"I talked to him earlier, and he's fine," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "It gets to you after a while, and I think it got to him the last couple of days. If I think he just needs one day, I'll get him back in there [Wednesday], and I'll try to look at matchups to see if I can help him out that way."
Halton hit seventh and went 2-for-3 with three RBIs and a run scored.
• The Brewers are just 17-54 when their opponent scores first, but one of those wins came Tuesday against the Cardinals.
• Before losing Tuesday, the Cardinals had won six consecutive games at Miller Park.
Tyler Emerick is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.