Trouble away from home: Finding Westbrook's role in the stretch -

Trouble away from home: Finding Westbrook's role in the stretch run

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By John Bailey By John Bailey

(BaseballStL) -- From punching out batters, to becoming a punching bag, Jake Westbrook has had two entirely different seasons as we head to the end of August.

The struggling Westbrook will start for the Cardinals against the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday after a brutal stretch.

Since coming off the disabled list with elbow issues, Westbrook is 5-7 with a 5.86 ERA. But the last two starts have been even more disturbing, and as a result the right-hander could soon be the odd man out of the Cardinals rotation.

In his last four outings, Westbrook has given up 29 hits, 24 runs in 21 and 2/3 innings, with an ERA of 9.97.

Even though he saved the bullpen with 108 pitches in relief against the Dodgers, Westbrook was pounded by L.A.; and in his last start against the Chicago Cubs, Westbrook walked the first three batters of the game in a career-high 124 pitch effort. 

In his two most recent starts, he’s walked 10 total batters (five each game).

Part of the issue is Westbrook is simply better at Busch. He’s 5-1, with a 1.23 WHIP and 12 walks compared to 15 strikeouts.

Away from home, Westbrook is a different pitcher. He has only two wins, 36 walks, 27 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.74. The road hasn't been this tough on someone outside of a Cormac McCarthy novel. 

He is scheduled to start Wednesday at Miller Park, a game that will likely determine his role going forward.

Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, and Joe Kelly are locked in as four of the five starters. Young Michael Wacha still appears to need more seasoning.

Westbrook’s next outing after Milwaukee is scheduled to be a home game against the Reds- a team batting .188 against him on the season. In their first contest in April, he went nine innings and held them to a five-hit shutout. That was at home.

In August, the Reds exacted revenge in Cincinnati, knocking Westbrook out in five innings after scoring five runs.

Despite Westbrook’s run of shoddy outings, he could still maintain his role in the rotation- at least for his rubber match win the Reds- with a solid start against the Brewers on Wednesday.

However the likelihood of Westbrook making his next scheduled start (on the road in Pittsburgh) is rapidly decreasing.

The vet sports an ERA of 7.20 this year in PNC Park, lasting only five innings in his sole start. In his career, he has never won a game there, and has posted an ERA of 6.02. It is not a place he pitches well.

As the Cardinals enter the stretch run, each game with the Pirates becomes a precious opportunity. With the recent call up of Tyler Lyons, it would appear that though Westbrook may have a place on the mound at Busch, the management has seen all it needs to see of him at PNC Park.

Whether he becomes a spot starter or the rotation gets juggled to find him more home opportunities, Westbrook’s role in the final month and a half has become one of the largest question marks for a Cardinal team that has been creating and erasing them all season long. 

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