Hawksworth Enjoys Solid Second Start

Pressed into starting duty, Blake Hawksworth yielded just one run in five-plus innings Saturday as the Cardinals defeated the Royals in Kansas City by a 5-3 score.

KANSAS CITY - Blake Hawksworth admits that the month of May wasn't exactly his best as a pitcher.

"It was extremely tough," Hawksworth said. "It was awful."

The right-hander had a 9.53 ERA in 10 May appearances, allowing 20 hits, 5 walks and four home runs in 11 1/3 innings. But Saturday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium, Hawksworth's May struggles were the furthest thing from anyone's mind.

Making his second start of the season and first since June 7 in Los Angeles, Hawksworth allowed just one earned run in five-plus innings to win for the first time as a starter in the Big Leagues Saturday in the Cardinals' 5-3 win over the Royals.

He allowed just two hits and walked one, taking a shutout into the sixth inning before reliever Trever Miller allowed Hawksworth's first run of the game to score.

"I was just efficient today," Hawksworth said. "I was throwing strikes and that's the big key for me, if I get ahead of hitters and command my fastball and my changeup, it can be a successful outcome.

"If I am locating my fastball on both sides of the plate, I can throw my changeup to get ahead and to get guys out in front and get ground balls early in the count. That's what I want, and it worked."

Hawksworth allowed six earned runs in four innings in a rough first start of the season three weeks ago in Los Angeles. But he felt positive momentum in three relief appearances since then and carried that over into his second start on Saturday against the Royals.

The right-hander faced the minimum until a one-out single in the fourth. After a leadoff walk to start the sixth, Hawksworth got a grounder that appeared to be an easy double play – but second baseman Skip Schumaker closed his glove too early on the relay throw from shortstop, and the ball fell to the ground.

Instead of having nobody on base and just one out away from completing six shutout innings, Hawksworth was pulled with the runners on first and second and no outs after throwing 66 pitches.

"Hawksworth was so good," said manager Tony La Russa. "That was exciting to watch. Who knows, Schu' did the thing that infielders have been doing forever, they try to rush the double play and the umpire called it right, so you get two there, but he wasn't going to go too much further, he started to get the ball up, that probably would have been it. But five-plus, man he was really good. Not just effective, he made a lot of good pitches.

"He was sinking balls, all of his off-speed pitches were located really well. He was just really good. …We saw that last year when he was nice and rested, he would hit the mid 90's. It shows you that when he's healthy, he can be special. That was clutch for us."

Hawksworth went 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA in 30 games for the Cardinals during his rookie season in 2009. He finished the year with 11-straight scoreless appearances before starting this season with seven additional scoreless outings.

But the right-hander found a rough patch in May, thanks in large part to an inconsistent changeup that caused him to abandon it in some outings. His good changeup was back Saturday, using it early and often to keep the Royals off balance.

"My changeup is my best off-speed pitch," Hawksworth said. " Compared with last year to this year, it hasn't been as effective. I've been looking for it and today I felt like that was my old changeup right there, to where its coming out of the same window for hitters and that's the biggest thing for that pitch. So mechanically, I was a little more sound today. I was able to repeat.

"I think I threw a couple curveballs, one cutter."

Hawksworth, who has 120 career Minor-League starts to his name, likely earned himself at least one more start with his performance on Saturday. The Cardinals will next need a starter on Thursday night, at Busch Stadium, when they open a four-game series with the Brewers.

At least for a couple hours Saturday, it was a welcomed sigh of relief for Hawksworth, who hopes to put May's struggles further in the rear-view mirror with each outing.

"Confidence wise, it's very big," Hawksworth said. "Now it's just building on it and if they allow me out there again, just continue to build the pitch count up and keep going.

"I think the last three or four outings, I've been slowly stepping in the right direction."


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