Cardinals-Astros Preview

The St. Louis Cardinals aren’t scoring, and they’re fading from

postseason contention as a result.

Shut out in their first two games in Houston, the Cardinals look

to avoid a fifth straight loss and a series sweep Wednesday at the

hands of the Astros.

St. Louis (69-61) has not been blanked in a series of three or

more games in the modern era, but that’s on the verge of happening

after the club recorded five hits the last two nights. John Jay,

Matt Holliday and Brenden Ryan provided the Cardinals’ three hits

in a 3-0 loss Tuesday.

“It’s a good thing (Wednesday) starts a new month,” Jay said

after the Cardinals went 11-15 in August. “Hopefully we can all

stay positive and keep looking at the big picture.”

That picture isn’t pretty. The Cardinals have dropped 12 of 16

and are seven games behind the first-place Reds.

St. Louis is 2-7 on a 10-game trip to Pittsburgh, Washington and

Houston – all teams with losing records. The Cardinals have scored

26 runs while losing seven of eight, with a good chunk coming in an

11-10, 13-inning loss to the Nationals on Thursday.

“It’s not for lack of trying or lack of adjusting,” manager Tony

La Russa said. “It’s not lack of concentration, we’re just not

making it work.”

Albert Pujols is a .320 hitter with 23 homers at Minute Maid

Park, but is 0 for 6 in this series. He has gone 5 for 25 in his

last seven games.

After they were shut down by J.A. Happ and Wandy Rodriguez in

the first two games, the Cardinals look to break out of their slump

against Nelson Figueroa (3-2, 2.77 ERA).

The right-hander is 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA in four starts against

the Cardinals, the most recent coming in 2004. He has made three

relief appearances against them this season, however, going 1-0

with a 5.06 ERA.

Figueroa has posted a 1.50 ERA over his last three starts but

has gone 0-1 in that span, getting only four runs of support. He

gave up one earned run and three hits while walking five in seven

innings of a 2-1 loss at New York on Friday.

“I’ve got to go back and work on some timing issues and maybe

some command,” Figueroa told the Astros’ official website.

St. Louis’ Jeff Suppan (1-6, 5.72) is expected to come off the

disabled list Wednesday after being sidelined with a groin strain.

The right-hander struck out five in 5 1-3 scoreless innings of an

11-1 win over Pittsburgh in his last outing July 31.

Suppan is 3-8 with a 4.97 ERA in 17 starts versus Houston. He

allowed four runs in 4 2-3 innings of a 4-1 loss to the Astros on

July 10, falling to 1-3 with a 5.49 ERA in seven starts at Minute

Maid Park.

Hunter Pence, 5 for 15 with a double and two home runs against

Suppan, is 4 for 8 in this series and 8 for 19 against the

Cardinals at home in 2010.

The Astros (61-71), winners of eight of 10, are 9-5 against the

Cardinals this season. Houston swept a three-game set at St. Louis

from May 11-13.