The St. Louis Cardinals benefited from another team’s late
collapse to make the playoffs and go on to win the World Series
last season. They’re hoping to avoid being on the other end of that
situation this year.
The Cardinals will try to get headed in the right direction
during an advantageous portion of schedule that begins Tuesday
night against Houston, though the last-place Astros have been
playing relatively well of late.
St. Louis (77-70) earned a split of a four-game series in Los
Angeles this past weekend to move a game ahead of the Dodgers for
the second NL wild-card berth, winning 5-2 in 12 innings
“We haven’t been playing too well lately, but we’ve been playing
hard,” outfielder Jon Jay said. “Every game from here on out is our
most important game. We’ve been there before, so we know what we’ve
got to do. It’s just a matter of doing it.”
The Cardinals have gone 6-13 in their last 19 and 3-8 in their
past 11 – struggles reminiscent of Atlanta’s 8-18 finish to 2011,
which allowed St. Louis to clinch the wild card on the final day of
The Cardinals appear to have a great opportunity to avoid
following the same path with nine straight games against the two
bottom teams in the NL Central. After hosting the Astros, they’ll
play six on the road against Chicago and Houston.
While the Astros (48-99) are in danger of surpassing the
franchise record of 106 losses set last year, they’ve won six of 10
after taking three of four from Philadelphia, which came to town
with a seven-game winning streak.
Houston is on the verge of winning three in a row for the first
time since a four-game run May 21-25.
“The guys don’t quit,” interim manager Tony DeFrancesco told the
team’s official website. “It seems like they’ve got some life and
St. Louis, though, has won five straight in the series and eight
of 10 meetings at Busch Stadium after a three-game sweep Aug.
The Cardinals will try to continue that success with help from
Kyle Lohse (14-3, 2.81 ERA). The right-hander has given up three or
fewer runs in 17 of his past 19 starts but had an eight-game win
streak snapped with a 3-2 loss to San Diego on Wednesday.
He allowed three runs over six innings while striking out
“Those are the starts we need to capitalize on,” manager Mike
Matheny told the team’s website. “Certainly, he did what he could
Lohse has gone 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA in his last four starts
against Houston, and 5-2 with a 2.06 ERA in seven home matchups
with the Astros since signing with St. Louis before the 2008
season, in which he won a career-high 15 games.
The Astros will send out Fernando Abad (0-4, 5.08) for his fifth
career start, all since joining the rotation in late August. The
left-hander gave up one run in 3 1-3 innings against Chicago on
Wednesday and suffered a 5-1 defeat.
Plagued by high pitch counts in all of his starts, Abad has not
pitched more than 4 1-3 innings in any of them and has taken the
loss each time.
“Abad is going to have to battle,” DeFrancesco told the team’s
website. “We’re trying to get him to make quality pitches.”
St. Louis first baseman Allen Craig is riding a 10-game hit
streak and has gone 7 for 19 with six RBIs in his last four
contests. He’s a career .439 hitter against the Astros and has
batted .462 in eight all-time matchups at home.