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Cardinals face must win (shudder) with Westbrook on the mound

I wouldn't be too upset that the Cardinals lost the middle game of their three-game set with the Milwaukee Brewers last night -- if not for the pitching match-up today.

After all, winning two of three games ought to be a recipe for success when it comes to the goal of winning the National League Central Division title. And the Cardinals are fresh off winning series against the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs. Three winning series in a row would be a pretty positive streak.

But the Redbirds couldn't afford to lose game two of the Milwaukee set because Jake Westbrook is on the hill today. I think it would qualify as a minor miracle if Westbrook is able to turn things around and pitch well enough to help his team win. Losing two of three to the bottom dwelling Brewers who are without Ryan Braun because of his performance enhancing drug suspension, is simply not acceptable.

Over the last month, which covers four appearances, Westbrook has compiled a 10.13 ERA with 24 earned runs allowed in 21 1/3 innings. Throw in 15 walks compared to only 10 strikeouts and he's allowed nearly 2.1 baserunners per inning. The Cardinals lost all four games, obviously.

On the road this season Westbrook is 2-7 with a 5.46 ERA and the home team has hit .303 against him. 

Of course, it's up to the offense to do its share. But it seems like every time Westbrook pitches lately that he gives up a big number in his first inning and the rest of the team's shoulders slump as they say "here we go again."

The Cardinals can't afford an automatic loss every fifth game. If they don't win three of the other four, they're going to keep losing ground.