St Louis Cardinals' Strange Birthday Gift to Jake Westbrook

By Sara Lefebvre
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The St Louis Cardinals honored Jake Westbrook on his 36th birthday Sunday by giving him the start in the final regular season game of 2013 vs. the Chicago Cubs. Was it really an honor, though?

The Cardinals wanted to win the game and get home-field advantage in the NL Playoffs. It was unlikely that Westbrook would pitch deep into the game because of his recent struggles and injuries. Westbrook pitched the first inning, allowing one hit. He didn’t come out for the second and was replaced by Joe Kelly.

So while he got to pitch for probably the last time in a Cardinals uniform at Busch Stadium, the fans had no chance to acknowledge him or say goodbye. He did get the ball Carlos Beltran caught for the final out of the inning.

Westbrook was acquired by the Cardinals at the trade deadline in 2010 from the Cleveland Indians. His sinkerball and durability were qualities that former pitching coach Dave Duncan coveted. Westbrook was never a great pitcher for the Cardinals, but he was serviceable. Over 3.5 seasons, he pitched in 93 games, with a record of 36-32 and 4.27 ERA.

Two memorable moments of Westbrook’s tenure in St Louis came during the 2011 season. At the Milwaukee Brewers on August 31, Westbrook hit a grand slam in the fourth inning of a tie game to help the Redbirds to an important win. It was the beginning of their push to win the Wild Card.

On October 27, 2011, Westbrook pitched a scoreless 11th inning vs. the Texas Rangers in Game 6 of the World Series. David Freese‘s home run in the bottom of the 11th gave Westbrook the win. How many people remember that Westbrook was the winning pitcher that night?

With all the young pitchers the Cardinals have, they probably won’t pick up Westbrook’s option for next year. If they wanted to honor his service with the team, they could have let him pitch to at least one batter in the second inning on Sunday. Then, when Mike Matheny came to take the ball, the fans might have acknowledged him too.

Sara Lefebvre is a St Louis Cardinals writer for Connect with her on Google.

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