Bullpen meltdown costs Cardinals, Westbrook in loss to Pirates

News-DemocratApril 27, 2013 

— Jake Westbrook was ready to keep pitching. Mike Matheny believed Westbrook had seen enough.

Westbrook's departure after six innings Saturday was followed by a dramatic rally by the Pittsburgh Pirates that carried them to a stunning 5-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals at dreary Busch Stadium.

Joe Kelly relieved Westbrook to start the seventh and allowed four runs, including Russell Martin's two-run homer that made it 2-2.

By the time the inning ended, the Pirates had batted around and added two more runs and evened the series at a game apiece.

"I made some bad pitches," said Kelly, who allowed a single to Pedro Alvarez before Martin's 404-foot drive to right on the first pitch he saw from Kelly. "Martin came out swinging; he put a good swing on it and took it the other way."

Kelly allowed a single and a walk before being lifted, but rookie Trevor Rosenthal poured fuel on the fire by hitting Jose Tabata with a pitch and walking Andrew McCutchen to make it 3-2. The Pirates' final run of the inning scored on an infield out.

Pittsburgh added another run in the eighth against Marc Rzepczynski, and a two-out rally by the Cardinals fell short in the ninth against Pirates closer Jason Grilli.

"It stinks for Jake," Kelly said. "He pitched his butt off and then for me to come in there and blow his win ... That's the most frustrating part."

The Pirates had 10 baserunners in three innings against the Cardinals' bullpen, whose ERA is 5.52. The starters' ERA is 2.08, led by Westbrook's 0.98.

The bullpen has been in a state of flux all season, a byproduct of closer Jason Motte being on the disabled list with a torn ligament in his right elbow.

Mitchell Boggs failed in the closer's role and has been replaced by Edward Mujica, who has four saves in four opportunities. Everyone else has struggled except for left-handed specialist Randy Choate, who has pitched just 3 1/3 innings.

Boggs' ERA is 10.80, Kelly's is 8.31, Rzepczynski's is 5.87, Fernando Salas' is 4.32 and Rosenthal's is 4.05.

Matheny, the Cardinals' manager, acknowledged that there are no defined roles in the bullpen because of its ineffectiveness.

"We tell them to go out and be ready to pitch. That's it," Matheny said. "We don't know what inning it's going to be because nobody has taken advantage of any particular spot. They're working toward it and they'll get there eventually, but right now we're not, so they're prepared to pitch any inning.

"These guys are going to be able to pick us up at some point through this season. Right now, we need to pick them up. It seems to go in cycles. Right now, it's a tough one on our pen, and we've got to figure it out."

Westbrook was sensational again, quieting the Pirates on six hits, all singles, in his six innings. He walked none and struck out six, extending his Busch Stadium scoreless streak to 15 innings this season.

"Any time you lose a game in the last third, you're going to be extremely frustrated," Matheny said. "When your starter gives you a great chance like that ... you hate to see it slip away."

Westbrook threw a season-low 91 pitches, but Matheny was concerned about Pedro Alvarez, who was scheduled to lead off the seventh. Alvarez is 12-for-20 (.600) with two homers and eight RBIs in his career against Westbrook.

Matheny also sensed the Pirates were having better at-bats against Westbrook in the sixth.

"We look and see how the ball's coming out of his hands and how guys are taking at-bats against him," Matheny said. "Even though it was only the sixth, it looked like he was working pretty hard. And he was getting to a (key) part in the lineup -- especially with (Pedro) Alvarez, in particular, who has given him so much trouble."

Westbrook would have preferred to stay in the game.

"I wouldn't say it was a grind," he said. "I felt like I was throwing the ball pretty well.

"I always feel like I can go back out there. I think the numbers Alvarez has against me ... I don't want to put words in Matheny's mouth here, but he's hitting (.600) off me in a pretty good number of at-bats. So it's understandable, I guess. But I always want to go back out there."

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665.

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