Astros-Cardinals Preview

Injuries to their top two RBI men could threaten the St. Louis

Cardinals’ latest winning streak.

The Cardinals could be without Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman

on Thursday when they try to complete a 4-0 homestand with a

two-game sweep of the Houston Astros.

After being swept in Cincinnati, St. Louis (25-19) returned home

to beat Philadelphia twice and Houston 5-1 on Wednesday. The

Cardinals, however, finished Wednesday’s game without Holliday and

Berkman.

Holliday, batting .357 with 28 RBIs, left after two innings with

a tight left quadriceps. Hitting .349 with 35 RBIs, Berkman was

removed as a precaution with tightness in his right wrist not long

after diving for a ball in right field.

“Holliday gave me a nod, which makes me think that he’ll be back

soon,” said manager Tony La Russa, who added that his cleanup

hitter might not play in the series finale.

Berkman is more optimistic he can go.

“I didn’t want to get jerked out of the game,” said Berkman, 8

for 15 with two homers and seven RBIs against his former Houston

teammates this season. “(Thursday) morning will be a good test to

see how it feels.”

The Cardinals could be without their entire starting outfield if

center fielder Colby Rasmus (abdomen) is unable to start for a

fifth consecutive game. Rasmus did pinch-hit Wednesday.

Fill-in John Jay and rookie Pete Kozma helped pick up the slack

for the Cardinals.Jay had two RBIs on Wednesday and Kozma added an

RBI double in his first career at-bat.

Starting in place of Rasmus, Jay has batted .458 with a homer

and nine RBIs his last eight games. He’s batting .333 in 14 career

games against Houston.

St. Louis might not need its most potent lineup if it continues

to get excellent pitching. The Cardinals have allowed one run in

each of the last three games.

Probable starter Kyle McClellan (5-1, 3.62 ERA) looks to bounce

back after allowing four runs and three homers Saturday in six

innings of a 7-3 loss to Cincinnati.

McClellan also hopes to improve on his only previous start

against Houston. He gave up a season-high five runs in 5 2-3

innings of an 11-7 win at Minute Maid Park on April 28.

Hunter Pence is 6 for 13 against McClellan but 3 for 25 with

eight strikeouts his last six games for the Astros (15-28), who

will try to avoid a fifth consecutive loss.

Houston has totaled four runs and 18 hits its last three

games.

J.A. Happ (3-4, 5.40) looks to help end the skid and earn his

third consecutive win. The left-hander allowed two runs in six

innings of a 7-3 victory over the New York Mets on Saturday to

improve to 2-0 with a 3.93 ERA in three starts this month.

“He’s got his breaking ball down, then he got some outs up in

the zone. You change the eye level, you can be effective,” Mets

manager Terry Collins told the Astros’ official website.

Happ surrendered a pair of solo homers in five innings to take

the loss in a 6-5 defeat to the Cardinals on April 27. He was worse

in his only career start at Busch Stadium, getting charged with

seven runs in one inning of an 8-4 loss Aug. 4.