In April, Westbrook went 0-5, losing two complete games. By the middle of June, things weren't much better as the Cleveland right-hander was 2-9.
It was no different for the Indians, who had a 9-14 first month and were going nowhere.
"I guess it's kind of a not-give-up attitude," Westbrook said. "We've bounced back."
Westbrook pushed his record over .500 for the first time this season on Thursday night as Ronnie Belliard's three-run homer sent the wild card-leading Indians to a 6-4 win over the Oakland Athletics.
Belliard's shot in the seventh on Barry Zito's 122nd and final pitch allowed Cleveland to remain one game up on the New York Yankees for the wild card, and the Indians extended their lead over the A's to 3½ games.
With Chicago's loss at Kansas City, the Indians also moved within five games of first in the AL Central, the closest they've been in the division since April 21.
"We can't worry about that until the end," Westbrook said.
Belliard fell behind 0-2 in the count before pulling a pitch from Zito (13-12) over the wall in left. The Indians went on to their ninth win in 10 games and are a major league-best 30-11 since July 31.
Nick Swisher hit a three-run homer for the A's, who with a win would have moved into a tie with the Los Angeles Angels atop the AL West. Oakland opens a four-game series in Boston on Thursday.
"We're still focused on the division," said A's manager Ken Macha. "We knew this would be a difficult road trip."
Westbrook didn't give up a hit until the sixth and allowed just two in seven strong innings. The right-hander, who opened the season 1-7, is 9-2 in 11 starts since July 21 and already has one more win than he had in 2004, when he made the All-Star team.
"I'm pretty proud of that," Westbrook said. "To have a 2-9 record and come back and be 15-14. You can't ever hang your head."
The Indians wasted several scoring chances against Zito, who was hurt by five walks and struggled with plate umpire Randy Marsh's tight strike zone.
"Barry's our ace," Macha said. "The guy we pin all our hopes on. He's got the right to determine the outcome of the game."
Macha stuck with Zito, who made Belliard chase the first two pitches out of the zone. But he hung a breaking ball on his next pitch and Belliard made him pay.
"That was a pitch that was going to bounce in the dirt, you can't guard against that," Zito said. "He was sitting curveball and he got the barrel out."
Helped by four walks from Zito, 11 of the first 22 Indians reached base but Cleveland didn't score until there was one out in the fifth. Martinez's sacrifice fly made it 1-0, Belliard hit an RBI single, and the Indians went ahead 3-0 when Eric Chavez booted Jose Hernandez's grounder to third.
Westbrook wasn't fazed by the A's or a 49-minute rain delay in the middle of the second inning. The right-hander retired the first 12 before giving up a leadoff walk to Chavez in the fourth.
But Westbrook got out of the inning on a seldom-seen double play. Hatteberg hit a low liner to second baseman Belliard, who couldn't handle it near his ankles but threw to first baseman Hernandez.
Hernandez caught the ball, and alertly tagged Chavez, who had scampered back and was standing on first. However, according to the rules, he must advance and was called out by first base umpire Jim Wolf. Hernandez then stepped on the bag to force Hatteberg.
Macha argued that Belliard intentionally dropped the ball, which would have permitted Chavez to stay at first.
"I thought he dropped it on purpose," Macha said. "The guy caught everything against us and was all over the field.
- Westbrook's nine wins since the All-Star break ties him with Houston's Andy Pettitte for the most in the majors.
- Zito has thrown a major league-high 3,488 pitches.
- Indians RHP Matt Miller, on the DL with elbow tendinitis, went home to Hattiesburg, Miss., last weekend. His house endured Hurricane Katrina's wrath, while others weren't as lucky. "I feel sorry for the people on the (Gulf) coast," he said. "The town I live in, I've never seen anything like it. But's it's 10 times worse on the coast."
- A's SS Bobby Crosby resumed hitting off a tee as he recovers from a broken left ankle.