Jake Westbrook’s Matt Cain Imitation

It was hard to know what to expect of last night’s game. Jake Westbrook has struggled more than any St. Louis Cardinals starter lately, last having a good outing on May 8. Gavin Floyd of the Chicago White Sox has been about the same.

While driving home last night, I heard Westbrook’s career stats against the Sox on the radio: 8-13 record, ERA above 5.00, hadn’t won against then since 2007. My expectations for the game sank even lower.

So, of course, Jake Westbrook went out and did his best Matt Cain imitation — for four innings anyway.

Twelve up, twelve down and nine were by ground-out, which we know is the key to Westbrook’s success. Compared to what we’ve had to endure from Westbrook since early May, those innings alone should count as a perfect game.

Even when Westbrook gave up the first hit to Paul Konerko leading off the fifth, Paulie was retired when Alex Rios grounded into a double play. (I watched the Sox broadcast; I’m required to call him Paulie.)

By the sixth inning, the clock struck midnight and Jake Westbrook returned to being Jake Westbrook. The first two outs came on liners to the outfield, followed by two singles. And with Adam Dunn next … well, we know Dunn either strikes out or hits homers, and Westbrook is not a strikeout pitcher. So Westbrook gave up three runs in his six innings, and his ERA actually rose (yet again) but only from 4.25 to 4.27.

Still, it was encouraging to see that performance from Westbrook — the first four innings in particular.

Also encouraging: David Freese. He’s continuing to heat up and had an RBI double in the second and a two-run homer in the third.

Matt Adams also came through in big moment. After striking out his first two at-bats (forcing me to listen to Hawk Harrelson say “He gone!” each time) Adams was up with the bases loaded in the fifth. He singled to score two.

Speaking of Adams, there are a variety of nicknames floating around for him but none have appealed to me enough to stick. Then, after his big hit, Teraesa — creator of the Wolf Pup name that obviously works for Lance Lynn — called him Baby Doughboy. I liked it at the time … now I’m not sure. But it is better than Patch or Big Timber that I’ve read/heard elsewhere.

Two other highlights (and I’m highly disappointed there is video of neither on the Cardinals website): Yadier Molina had an infield single in the fifth (that’s what loaded the bases for Baby Doughboy) and had a stolen base in the seventh. Let me repeat: Yadi infield single, Yadi stolen base, in the same game.

And no video.

One other hopefully encouraging sign: Rafael Furcal broke his 0-for-23 slump with an eighth inning single.

Once Westbrook exited, the bullpen had to get the final nine outs — and they did the job well, not allowing a hit. Eduardo Sanchez hit Alexei Ramirez and walked a batter and Victor Marte walked Adam Dunn, but Mitchell Boggs retired the only man he faced and Jason Motte had a one-two-three ninth for his lucky 13th save.

All in all, a very nice game and a very nice win — it broke the White Sox interleague play streak of winning 11 consecutive road series.

Interleague play continues rolling along, with 2012’s first round of the I-70 Series starting tonight. Kyle Lohse takes on Vin Mazzaro of the Royals at 7:15 p.m.

Christine Coleman is the senior St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email aaronmilesfastball@gmail.com. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates.

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