ST. LOUIS (AP) - Jake Westbrook thrived with an old standby, returning to a cut fastball that helped him get nine strikeouts to match his career best.
Westbrook allowed four hits in 7 2-3 innings and got his first RBI of the season in the St. Louis Cardinals' 3-0 victory over the out-of-gas Colorado Rockies on Friday night.
The right-hander used to feature a cutter before undergoing elbow reconstruction and missing most of 2008 and '09. That's the pitch that kept Rockies hitters off-balance.
``A while back I used to throw it a lot and it was effective for me, and I kind of lost it after being hurt for so long,' Westbrook said. ``I just told myself I'm going to just throw it and it worked out.
``It's one more pitch they have to worry about, and I think it makes me a better pitcher.'
Rockies catcher Miguel Olivo sustained a mild concussion when he was struck in the back of the head and neck area by Albert Pujols' backswing in the first inning. Olivo was taken to a hospital for a CT scan but was in the clubhouse after the game, although the team did not make him available to reporters.
``That was real scary,' Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa said. ``I'm glad he's OK.'
Dexter Fowler had two hits and struck out twice for the Rockies, who have lost 11 of 12 in a late-season free fall that began with them one game out of first place in the NL West and left them eight games behind at game time.
``This isn't the first time I've talked about offensive shortcomings on the road,' manager Jim Tracy said. ``We didn't beat ourselves, we just didn't score any runs to give ourselves a chance to win. That's all there is to it.'
Both teams have had disappointing second halves, entering with identical 83-76 records. The Rockies, who were shut out for the first time since Aug. 19 at Los Angeles, had won 11 of the previous 13 against St. Louis.
Westbrook (4-4) allowed four hits, but two of them came in the eighth and he left leading 3-0 with the bases loaded and two outs. Trever Miller jammed Carlos Gonzalez on an easy broken-bat comebacker to end the threat, and Ryan Franklin finished for his 27th save in 29 chances.
Westbrook set the tone.
``He had some mustard upstairs,' manager Tony La Russa said. ``He just had it working.'
Westbrook had been 2 for 22 with 12 strikeouts before driving in Brendan Ryan with an opposite-field single off Jorge De La Rosa (8-7) in the second, the second RBI of his career. Allen Craig had a run-scoring groundout in the first and Craig doubled and scored on Matt Pagnozzi's squeeze bunt in the sixth for a 3-0 lead.
De La Rosa gave up three runs and five hits in seven innings and lost his third straight start, although he allowed three or fewer runs for the 13th time in 14 starts. Tracy rewarded De La Rosa for his strong comeback from a finger tendon injury by playing his everyday lineup, and will do the same on Saturday when Ubaldo Jimenez goes for his 20th victory against Kyle Lohse.
``If he's fortunate enough to get it, that number represents a feat,' Tracy said.
De La Rosa fell to 3-1 against the Cardinals while with the Rockies.
Matt Holliday was 2 for 3 with an intentional walk, pulling slightly ahead of Albert Pujols for the team batting title with two games to go. Holliday is at .3129 and Pujols at .3128 after going 0 for 4.
Pujols has led the Cardinals in batting average his first nine seasons, including an NL batting title with a .359 average in 2003. He was 12 for 22 during a seven-game hitting streak.
``They're both having fantastic years,' eighth-place hitter Brendan Ryan said. ``We're pulling for both of them.'
NOTES: Westbrook was 3-1 with a 1.87 ERA in five starts at Busch Stadium. ... Longtime Cardinals organist Ernie Hays, performing for the last time at Busch Stadium, received a standing ovation before the eighth. The Rockies' Ryan Spilborghs stepped out of the batter's box in deference. ... Westbrook reached 10 victories for the fourth time and first time since 2006. ... Two of Westbrook's three nine-strikeout games have come in only 12 starts with St. Louis, including Aug. 7 at Florida. ... Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki, who had 15 homers and 40 RBIs in September, is 1 for 8 the first two games of the season-closing series. ... Gonzalez has a swollen hand and Tracy said it's unlikely he'll play Saturday. ... The Cardinals are 50-29 at home, their best since going 50-31 in 2005.
The Associated Press News Service
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