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STL@MIL: Westbrook helps his cause with a grand slam

MILWAUKEE -- Jake Westbrook joined an exclusive club on Wednesday night. No, not pitchers to have beaten the Brewers at Miller Park this year (though that's a short list as well).

Westbrook became the second pitcher to hit a grand slam in the Major Leagues this year, and the third Cardinals hurler to do it in the past three seasons, leading St. Louis to an 8-3 win over Milwaukee. Since the start of the 2000 season, 10 pitchers have hit grand slams.

"It's pretty special," Westbrook said. "To go back and say you hit a grand slam in the big leagues, it's a lot of fun."

The right-hander's homer, the first of his career, gave the Cardinals a lead they would not relinquish and capped a bizarre sequence of events in the first half of the St. Louis win. He hit it on the first pitch from Randy Wolf, after Milwaukee had blown a pair of chances to get outs earlier in the inning.

The win trimmed the Brewers' lead over the Cards to 8 1/2 games in the National League Central with 26 games remaining on St. Louis' schedule and four more head-to-head games to come. The Cardinals have won five of their last six games.

The Brewers had been all but invincible at home this year, coming into the series with a staggering 50-16 mark here. The series loss for them is their first at home since dropping two out of three to the Diamondbacks, July 4-6.

"If we hadn't been playing so great at home this whole season, it probably wouldn't be an issue," said Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder. "But because of the way we've played here, now it's like, 'What's happening?'"

From the start, the Cardinals looked like the better team on Wednesday. Rafael Furcal led off the game with a homer, and Albert Pujols added another solo shot two batters later. Corey Hart matched Furcal's feat in the bottom of the inning, but Ryan Braun was caught trying to steal third, short-circuiting a chance at a bigger inning.

The Brewers appeared on their way to taking the lead in the third, but they once again sabotaged themselves. Braun tripled to center field and had a chance at an inside-the-park home run. However, Braun fell down between third and home and was caught in a rundown with Fielder waiting on deck.

"It was a big part of the game," Westbrook said. "To pitch to Fielder with nobody on, only giving up that one run, that's a big part of the ballgame. Especially it being tied right there. It was fortunate for us that it happened."

It was the next half-inning, though, when the Cardinals truly made Milwaukee pay for not being sharp. Wolf hit the first two batters of the inning. Yadier Molina hit a ball to the wall in right field, and the Cardinals appeared to botch their baserunning. David Freese didn't get a good jump and thus didn't go home on the ball, and when he doubled back, St. Louis was in jeopardy of Freese and Lance Berkman being on the same base.

Yet Milwaukee couldn't get even one out on the play. Freese made it back to third, Molina ducked back to first and the bases were loaded.

"It's a tough play because with nobody out, you don't want to just take off running in case the guy makes an incredible catch," Berkman said. "So David, the play is to go as far as you feel comfortable going. Theoretically, you want to get where you can still tag and go to third if the guy catches it, but that's hard to do. It's just a weird play."

Ryan Theriot gave the Brewers another potential lifeline one batter later when he grounded to third, but Milwaukee got only one out on the play as catcher George Kottaras held the ball instead of going to first to get Theriot.

That's when the Cards finally brought the hammer. Westbrook jumped a first-pitch fastball for the grand slam that made it 6-2. He is the third Cardinals pitcher to hit a grand slam in the past three seasons, joining Brad Penny and Chris Carpenter. Westbrook had a total of six RBIs in his career before picking up four on one swing.

Carpenter made a point to welcome him to the club.

"He walked in and he said, 'Not everybody can hit grand slams in the big leagues,' stuff like that," Westbrook said.

From there, Westbrook merely had to survive two more innings, and he did that, getting through five with three runs (two earned). He handed it over to the Cardinals' bullpen, which turned in four excellent frames to secure the win.

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