Cardinals-Astros Preview

The way the St. Louis Cardinals have struggled of late, even the
presence of All-Star Chris Carpenter on the mound might not help
bring an end to their latest skid.

Carpenter looks to bounce back from a rough start and help the
reeling Cardinals avoid a fourth straight loss Tuesday night
against the Houston Astros.

What appeared to be a favorable road stretch to Pittsburgh,
Washington and Houston, has been anything but for St. Louis (69-60)
over the last week. The Cardinals dropped to 2-6 on the 10-game
trip after falling 3-0 to the Astros on Monday night.

“It’s not like there’s just no hope,” Cardinals shortstop
Brendan Ryan said. “It’s just very frustrating.”

Yadier Molina and Randy Winn had the only two hits for the
Cardinals against J.A. Happ on Monday.

St. Louis held a one-game lead in the NL Central on Aug. 13, but
has lost 11 for 15 to fall six games behind first-place Cincinnati
in the division.

“We’ve got to win ballgames,” Carpenter told the Cardinals’
official website. “That’s what it comes down to.”

Carpenter (14-4, 2.93 ERA) allowed as many runs in his last
start as he did in his previous three combined when he gave up six
– three earned – in six innings of an 11-10, 13-inning loss at
Washington Thursday. The former Cy Young Award winner was 5-1 with
a 1.99 ERA in his previous eight starts.

The right-hander is 7-4 with a 2.82 ERA in 16 starts versus
Houston, including 1-1 with a 3.52 ERA this season.

St. Louis must provide some support for Carpenter, something it
has not done while scoring two runs over the last two games.
Sluggers Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday each went 0 for 3 on
Monday.

Holliday is a lifetime .308 hitter with three home runs against
scheduled starter Wandy Rodriguez (10-12, 3.87), who has allowed
more than one earned run once over his last seven starts.

Though the left-hander is 1-2 with a 6.06 ERA in three starts
against the Cardinals this season, he is 3-1 with a 1.12 ERA over
that seven-start stretch. Rodriguez gave up a run and struck out
six in seven innings of a 5-1 win at Philadelphia on Thursday.

“It’s hard to find a better pitcher over the last couple of
months,” Astros manager Brad Mills said.

Rookie first baseman Brett Wallace had a career-high three hits
with an RBI and Carlos Lee drove in a run Monday as Houston (60-71)
improved to 8-5 against the Cardinals this season.

Wallace is hitting .215 in 27 games since being called up from
Triple-A but is 6 for 10 with three RBIs against the Cardinals in
2010.

“It’s just exciting to contribute offensively for once,” Wallace
said.

Lee has driven in 15 runs over 12 games but is 7 for 40 with 11
strikeouts against Carpenter.

The Astros have won seven of nine.

“Having the good games like we did, there’s an understanding and
a confidence gained that they’re able to play this way,” Mills told
the Astros’ official website.