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Pittsburgh at St. Louis

Venue: Busch Stadium

The St. Louis Cardinals were two outs from entering their crucial series against the Pittsburgh Pirates tied for the second NL wild-card spot.

But if anyone can get them even quickly, it's Jake Westbrook, who will try to win a career-best sixth consecutive start Friday night to open this three-game set between division rivals.

The reigning World Series champions are tied with San Francisco at 64-54, one game back of Pittsburgh (65-53). The Cardinals held a 1-0 lead with Jason Motte trying to finish off Arizona late Thursday night after an 85-minute rain delay before the game, but he allowed homers to Paul Goldschmidt and Chris Young on consecutive pitches in an eventual 2-1 loss to the Diamondbacks.

"It wasn't good," Motte said after blowing his first save since June 17 and fifth in 32 opportunities. "I didn't do my job tonight. It was one of those things."

Westbrook (12-8, 3.62 ERA), meanwhile, has been a driving force in getting St. Louis into playoff contention, compiling a 2.94 ERA during his winning streak. The right-hander matched his 2011 win total after beating Philadelphia on Saturday, getting 17 groundouts during 7 2-3 innings of one-run pitching in a 4-1 victory.

"He was as good as we've seen him," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "His sinker was falling off the table."

After dropping two starts to the Pirates earlier this season while being backed by only two runs, Westbrook notched his first career win against them in a 5-4 victory July 1 despite giving up four runs and nine hits in six innings. He is 1-5 with a 5.18 ERA in seven starts and 11 lifetime games versus the Pirates.

While Westbrook has flourished, Pirates counterpart James McDonald (10-5, 3.77) has foundered. The right-hander is 1-2 with an 8.71 ERA in six starts since the All-Star break, with the worst outing last Friday when he allowed a season-worst seven runs in 4 1-3 innings to San Diego as he blew a 6-1 lead.

The Pirates got him off the hook for the loss by rallying before eventually losing 9-8.

Still, Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage was encouraged by McDonald's side sessions ahead of this start, noting to the team's official website, "It's not so much pitch selection, it's execution of that pitch and locating that pitch. That's what we've been misfiring with every now and then, but they've been in key situations."

A.J. Burnett and Garrett Jones delivered in those key situations Thursday for Pittsburgh in a 10-6 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers to avoid a four-game sweep. Burnett showed some fire after giving up a homer to Hanley Ramirez to notch his 15th win, and Jones hit a pair of three-run homers as the Pirates finished a disappointing 4-7 homestand on a positive note.

"He came out knowing what's at hand here, and to put a foot down," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Burnett. "Then the game probably added to his edge, sharpened his edge, just because the game was all over the place."

Jones was productive over the last week of the homestand, going 10 for 24 with three home runs, three doubles and one triple with 12 RBIs the last seven games. The first baseman, though, is 2 for 13 lifetime versus Westbrook.

McDonald went 1-0 in three starts against the Cardinals last year, giving up seven runs in 16 1-3 innings, but did not receive a decision in either of his outings at Busch Stadium. He is 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA in four starts and eight lifetime appearances versus St. Louis.

Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina will miss his third straight game because of mid-back tightness.

Copyright 2016 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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Probable Starters

James McDonald, RHP
2012 stats
141.0 Innings Pitched 146.2
10-5 Wins-Losses 12-8
3.77 Earned Run Average 3.62
52 Walks 38
126 Strikeouts 92
99 Pitches Per Start 96
Career vs. opponent
26.2 Innings Pitched 48.2
2-1 Wins-Losses 1-5
3.38 Earned Run Average 5.18

Jake Westbrook, RHP
weather image  Morning clouds. Mild.
Hi TempLo TempWindHumidityPrecip %
TeamStandingsWLPct.GBL 10Strk
Pittsburgh3rd NL Central7780.490244-6 L 4
St. Louis2nd NL Central8275.522196-4 W 1
vs Jake Westbrook
vs James McDonald

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Game Odds
Pittsburgh 135 St. Louis -145
G. ColeElbow
B. CumptonElbow
E. DiazLeg
N. FelizArm
J. HarrisonGroin
K. HayesRibs
S. MarteBack
A. MeadowsOblique
C. SadlerForearm
A. SchugelShoulder
C. StewartKnee
St. Louis
T. CooneyShoulder
M. GonzalesElbow
M. HarrisElbow
M. HollidayThumb
L. LynnElbow
T. LyonsKnee
S. ManessElbow
N. PlummerWrist
J. WaldenShoulder
T. WaldronShoulder
K. WongShoulder
Series Game Log
Apr 15STLSTL 14-3Martinez Melville 
Apr 16STLCIN 9-8Finnegan Wainwright 
Apr 17STLSTL 4-3Siegrist Ohlendorf 
Jun 7CINCIN 7-6Cingrani Siegrist 
Jun 8CINSTL 12-7Bowman Simon 
Jun 9CINSTL 3-2Oh Ohlendorf 
Aug 2CINCIN 7-5Diaz Oh 
Aug 3CINSTL 5-4Wacha Reed 
Aug 4CINCIN 7-0Finnegan Leake 
Aug 8STLSTL 5-4Maness Cingrani 
Aug 9STLCIN 7-4Lorenzen Bowman 
Aug 10STLSTL 3-2Garcia DeSclafani 
Sep 2CINCIN 3-2Iglesias Oh 
Sep 3CINCIN 9-1Straily Garcia 
Sep 4CINSTL 5-2Martinez Adleman 
Sep 26STLCIN 15-2Adleman Garcia 
Sep 27STLSTL 12-5Wainwright Stephenson 
Sep 28STL 8:15 PM EDT  
Sep 29STL 7:15 PM EDT