Westbrook solid for Cardinals

JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — Jake Westbrook has one goal in mind for his final start of spring training.

“I definitely would like to give myself a chance to get deep in the ballgame,” Westbrook said. “That comes with putting hitters on the defensive as opposed to the offensive.

Westbrook allowed an unearned run while pitching into the sixth inning Wednesday, and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the New York Mets 5-3.

Westbrook, who has a 3.60 spring ERA, retired the final nine batters he faced. But he needed 85 pitches.

In his final tuneup before the regular season opens, he would like to get to 90-95 pitches, but much deeper in the game.

“Once I get that rhythm down and figure that out, I should be fine,” he said. “I moved toward that direction today.”

Manager Tony La Russa is pleased with Westbrook, who was elevated to the No. 2 starter after Adam Wainwright underwent elbow reconstruction surgery.

“I think his stuff was good,” La Russa said. “Everything was improved today. The more starts the sharper he gets.”

Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey left with two on and one out in the sixth inning, clinging to a 1-0 lead. Four batters later, the Cardinals went ahead 5-1, the big blow being Allen Craig’s three run homer off Manny Acosta.

Dickey was charged with two runs — one unearned. He allowed six hits, struck out five and did not issue a walk.

The Cardinals rested first baseman Albert Pujols and outfielders Colby Rasmus and Lance Berkman against Dickey.

“During the season, you need to face the knuckleballer,” La Russa said. “This early in the spring you ask some of the core guys, ‘Is this helpful or harmful.’”

Pujols’ left foot was stepped on by Washington’s Nyjer Morgan on a close play at first base Monday and Rasmus is sore after being hit in the hip by Nationals’ starter Livan Hernandez, a pitch Hernandez said was intentional. La Russa said both players are OK and are expected to return to the lineup today.

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