ST. LOUIS — Friday represented a bounce-back game for St. Louis Cardinals pitchers Jake Westbrook and Edward Mujica.
Westbrook, coming off his worst outing of the season, allowed one run on three hits in seven innings as the Cardinals defeated the Miami Marlins 4-1 at Busch Stadium.
Mujica, coming off his first blown save of the season Thursday in a 6-5 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, fired a one-two-three ninth and struck out two for his 22nd save in 23 chances.
Most importantly, the Cardinals took a step forward in shaking their recent slump that had seen them lose eight of 11 games.
"These guys come ready to play, no matter what the circumstances are or how bad the travel is," Westbrook said, referring to a nightmarish travel itinerary that saw the Cardinals' flight from California land in St. Louis at 5:30 a.m. Friday. "They always come ready to play, and it showed tonight. It was a good win for us after that one last night."
Trevor Rosenthal was the bridge between Westbrook and Mujica. Rosenthal struck out the side in the eighth and Mujica used an aggressive demeanor to shake the doldrums from Thursday.
"Everybody has bad days sometimes," Mujica said. "You're trying to get here and turn the page, just get ready for tonight's game. I didn't put too much attention on (Thursday) night. I just got on the plane and relaxed. We had a long flight. I made a couple of mistakes (Thursday) night. Tonight, I went right after it."
Mujica finished off the Marlins as the fireworks show on the riverfront entered its final stage.
"That was crazy," Mujica said. "I saw people, before the inning, taking pictures and everything. It was unbelievable. I've never seen that before."
Westbrook (5-2) received offensive support from Allen Craig, who had an RBI double and a sacrifice fly. Matt Holliday and Matt Adams also had RBI doubles and Adams made a stellar defensive play at first base to rob Ed Lucas of a double in the first.
Westbrook recorded 18 outs on ground balls and improved to 3-0 with a 0.31 ERA in three starts and 29 innings at Busch Stadium. Logan Morrison's second-inning homer, measured at 440 feet, was the only run allowed by Westbrook, who walked none and struck out none.
"It's just a matter of location and getting ahead in counts, and keeping it down there," said Westbrook, who in his last start was rocked for six runs and 10 hits in four innings Sunday at Oakland. "You have to make them swing (at pitches) down there, and in order to do that, you have to get ahead. It's a fine line."
Westbrook couldn't remember another start in which he had no walks and no strikeouts. It hadn't occurred since April 19, 2006, when he worked 4 2/3 innings for the Cleveland Indians in an 18-9 defeat at Baltimore.
Westbrook was removed after 84 pitches and it was clear he could have remained in the game.
"He found that groove. When he finds it, it's fun (to watch)," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We probably could have kept watching him do it for a couple more innings. He was really on a nice roll."
Rosenthal, however, had not pitched in five days and the Cardinals were eager for Mujica to turn the page on his shaky outing against the Angels. Rosenthal and Mujica combined for five strikeouts against six batters.
"We had to build up those strikeout totals after my outing," Westbrook cracked. "(But) I don't really look into that too much. If I can get a ground ball before three pitches, that's fine with me. I'm OK with that. I'm not going to break any strikeout records."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.