ST. LOUIS — With Lance Berkman's and Carlos Beltran's compromised health, the St. Louis Cardinals could ill afford another physical setback.
David Freese on Thursday afternoon exited the Cardinals' 7-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the sixth inning because of cramping in his right calf.
Freese was 3-for-3 when he was lifted for pinch-hitter Skip Schumaker. During his nine-game hitting streak, the third baseman is batting .536 (15-for-28).
"You have to stay hydrated and get rest," Freese said. "I think I'll be all right. You've just got to take care of it."
Freese said the calf tightened up during his fifth-inning at-bat. The cramp became worse when Freese broke for first on his two-run single against Chris Capuano, and it persisted when he went to second on Matt Carpenter's hit.
Freese was able to play in the field in the sixth, but the discomfort wouldn't subside.
"I said I wasn't going to come out, but after I took the field, it was barking a little bit," said Freese, who's batting .314 with 14 home runs and 58 RBIs. "I'm just trying to hit line drives."
Left fielder Matt Holliday had his team-high 36th multihit game Thursday, going 2-for-3 with his 17th homer of the season.
Holliday, who was 9-for-24 (.375) with three homers on the Cardinals' 6-1 homestand, is 52-for-123 (.423) with 15 doubles, seven homers and 29 RBIs in his last 33 games, and he has reached base via hit or walk in 22 consecutive starts.
Holliday's homer Thursday, a line drive to center against Javy Guerra in the sixth that put the Cardinals on top 7-4, was his 50th at Busch Stadium.
"Every at-bat, I go out there and try to have a good at-bat," Holliday said. "It's a competition between me and the pitcher. I don't look at it like, 'Well, so-and-so is doing well, so I don't have as much pressure on myself.' I try to keep the game simple. I just go up there and try to compete.
"That's always the way I've looked at it. That's the only way I think is healthy to look at things --the competition between me and him. I'll do the best I can to hit a ball hard. You can't control where you hit it, but you control the kind of at-bat you have. I feel like I'm having consistent at-bats. I feel like my swing's in a pretty good place."
Holliday reiterated that the Cardinals can't be fixated on their pursuit of first-place Cincinnati. St. Louis trails the Reds by 5 1/2 games.
"We've got to win a lot of games," Holliday said. "(The homestand) was big, but we've got to keep winning. We only made up but a half-game on the whole homestand. We're playing well and we've got to keep playing well. We'll see."
Pitcher Jake Westbrook improved to 9-8 despite surrendering the Cardinals' 2-0 lead in the fifth when Los Angeles opened the inning with five consecutive singles and scored four runs.
The Cardinals responded with four runs of their own in the fifth, and Westbrook vowed to shut the door from that point.
He did just that, working a scoreless sixth and seventh. He finished with one walk and six strikeouts.
"It definitely was a frustrating inning just for the fact I was making decent pitches," Westbrook said of the fifth. "Things weren't going my way. It kind of snowballed on me.
"But the four runs we got right back were a big boost. To come back out there and (for them) to do that, to give me that lead right back. To settle in and throw a couple of extra innings and keep it where it was, that was nice."
Cardinals starters have worked at least six innings in 21 straight games.
"It's kind of one of those things where each guy, on his day, takes pride in going out there and doing his job," Westbrook said. "As starting pitchers, like I've always said, our goal is to get deep in a ballgame and give us a chance to win. With our offense, if we do that, more times than not we're going to win a lot of ballgames."
On to Chicago
The Cardinals open a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field at 1:20 p.m. Friday. Lance Lynn (12-4, 3.10 ERA) will pitch against the Cubs' Travis Wood (4-5, 4.33 ERA).
The series continues at 12:05 p.m. Saturday and 1:20 p.m. Sunday. St. Louis swept the Cubs last weekend at Busch Stadium, outscoring them 23-1.
"Hopefully, we can carry (the 6-1 homestand) over to the road," closer Jason Motte said. "We were able to sweep the Cubs here and now we go play them there. Hopefully, we can keep this thing going."