March 21, 2012; Jupiter, FL, USA;St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Jake Westbrook (35) in the fifth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals during a spring training game at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
By Nora Farrell
(The Cardinal Nation Show) -- Tonight, the Cardinals will begin Interleague Play with a nine game home stand against American League Central teams. St. Louis will look to win their third game in a row after going 4-6 on the 10-game road trip.
The Cardinals are 30-28 on the year while going 13-11 at home and 17-17 on the road. The Indians have an almost identical record at 30-26 and going 4-6 in their last 10, but are 16-16 at home and 14-10 on the road. They have lost eight of their last 12. This will be the first time the Cardinals have faced the Cleveland Indians since 2009, when the Indians took two of three from the Cardinals at home. In fact, Cleveland has won all six series against the Cardinals since Interleague Play began in 1997.
The Cardinals will look to continue their offensive output from yesterday in their 14-2 thumping of the Astros. David Freese recorded his first career grand slam as well as a 2-run shot in the 9th, Shane Robinson recorded his second homer of this season, and Beltran hit a NL-leading 16th homer.
Yadier Molina has quietly been one of the Cardinals most consistent players at the plate. In his last 11 games, Molina is 15-for-39 with two homeruns and 9 RBIs. For a player known for his defensive skill, the Cardinals are happy to see his increased production at the plate. Indians centerfielder, Michael Brantley, has been on a tear at the plate. He currently has a 15-game hitting streak and during that time is hitting .357 with 14 RBIs.
In the first game of the series, Jake Westbrook (4-5, 4.23 ERA) will match up against Josh Tomlin (2-3, 5.32 ERA). Westbrook, a former starter for Cleveland, has a lifetime record of 28-34 with a 4.37 ERA against the AL Central and went 2-0 with a 2.73 ERA last season against teams from the AL Central. Tomlin, a righty, has never before faced the Cardinals.
Both pitchers have struggled recently. In his last outing, Tomlin gave up five runs and 10 hits in six innings in a 7-4 loss to Minnesota.
Westbrook has allowed 21 runs in his last 25 innings. Westbrook is not the only connection between the Cardinals and the Indians. Indians closer, Chris Perez, was traded from St. Louis to Cleveland on the Trade Deadline back in 2009. Perez was a middle reliever for the Cards but has become a closer for Cleveland. Perez has converted 19 saves in a row.
For the Cardinals to win tonight, they will need to get to Tomlin early and also have consistent pitching from Westbrook. In his last start, Tomlin allowed four runs on five hits in the first inning, but settled in thereafter. Westbrook's struggles recently, in large part, have been attributed to inconsistency in his sinker. If the sinker is more consistent, he will have success on the mound.
The Cardinals want to take advantage of playing at home after being on the road for over a week. First pitch is scheduled for 7:15pm CT.