Astros-Cardinals Preview

The Houston Astros have not played any better under their new

manager than they did for the old one.

Facing Kyle Lohse won’t make interim manager Tony DeFrancesco’s

next attempt at his first win any easier.

Lohse looks to continue his recent dominance while trying to

help the St. Louis Cardinals hand the lowly Astros a sixth

consecutive loss Wednesday night at Busch Stadium.

Houston (39-84) has been outscored 15-1 in two games since

DeFrancesco replaced the fired Brad Mills over the weekend. The

Astros, who were limited to five hits and struck out 12 times

against Adam Wainwright in Tuesday’s 7-0 loss at St. Louis, have

dropped 41 of 48.

“It’s kind of like you get beat down and the big guy keeps

hitting you,” DeFrancesco said.

Things only get tougher against Lohse (12-2, 2.61 ERA), who is

6-0 with a 2.18 ERA in last 11 starts since losing to Kansas City

on June 15.

The right-hander has allowed one run, 12 hits and struck out 18

while going 1-0 in his last three outings. Lohse gave up four hits

in 6 2-3 innings but closer Jason Motte could not hold a 1-0

ninth-inning lead in a 2-1 loss to Arizona on Thursday.

“We keep saying the same thing over and over, but we’ve been

very impressed with just how he comes out and makes his pitches,”

manager Mike Matheny told the Cardinals’ official website. “He gets

into a position for us to win.”

Lohse’s first loss of the season came May 4 at Houston, when he

allowed five runs – three earned – in five innings of a 5-4 defeat.

He’s 8-7 with a 2.77 ERA in 16 starts against the Astros.

Despite missing Carlos Beltran for the second straight game

because of a right hand injury, the Cardinals (66-56) broke out

Tuesday after scoring 10 runs while losing three of the previous

four. It’s uncertain when Beltran, 4 for 23 with eight strikeouts

in his last six games, will return.

Jon Jay and Yadier Molina each had three hits while Allen Craig

extended his hitting streak to 10 games for the Cardinals. Jay is 6

for 14 in the last two games after going 0 for 9 in his previous

four. Molina is 8 for 14 with four RBIs in the last three following

a 2-for-14 slump.

Craig is batting .410 (16 for 39) in his last 10 games overall,

and .438 (21 for 48) in 15 career games versus Houston. He’s 4 for

8 with a homer against Bud Norris (5-10, 5.23), who appears healthy

enough to take the ball after he left last Wednesday’s 7-2 loss at

Chicago in the fourth inning when he was hit in the foot by a line

drive.

Norris, 0-9 with a 6.98 ERA in 13 starts since beating the Cubs

on May 21, allowed six runs and three homers in 3 1-3 innings of

his last outing.

“It’s been frustrating,” Norris told the Astros’ official

website. “I have to keep plugging away.”

The right-hander is 7-3 with a 2.47 ERA in 12 starts versus St.

Louis, including 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in two at home in 2012. Norris

is 4-1 with a 2.68 ERA in six career starts at Busch Stadium.

Houston All-Star Jose Altuve is 10 for 25 (.400) in his last six

games. He’s 2 for 3 with a homer versus Lohse.