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News » Astros-Cardinals Preview 2009-04-12


Astros-Cardinals Preview 2009-04-12


Astros-Cardinals Preview 2009-04-12
Wandy Rodriguez isn't an ace in anybody's book, and even though he looked solid in his first outing this season he still has a way to go to become a front-of-the-rotation starter.

What Rodriguez has provided the Houston Astros, however, is a way to contain Albert Pujols.

The left-hander has pitched well against the St. Louis Cardinals lately - particularly the two-time NL MVP - and the Astros will need him to stop the red-hot Pujols once again Sunday afternoon as they look to avoid a three-game sweep.

Rodriguez (0-0, 1.50 ERA) is 37-40 with a 4.76 ERA in four major league seasons, but he started to show signs of improvement in 2008, posting a career-best 3.54 ERA in 25 starts.

He delivered a solid performance Tuesday against the Chicago Cubs despite not factoring in the decision, giving up a run in six innings in a game the Astros (1-4) won 3-2 in 10 innings. But Houston hasn't won since, losing the finale of a three-game set to the Cubs before dropping their first two games in St. Louis.

Pujols single-handedly dismantled the Astros on Saturday afternoon, hitting a grand slam and later adding a three-run homer. His seven RBIs tied a career high as the Cardinals (4-2) routed Houston 11-2.

"He's the best hitter in the game, and he continues to do things like that that are amazing," first baseman Lance Berkman told the Astros' official Web site. "It really doesn't surprise me. I don't think anything he did would surprise me. If he homered in 10 straight at-bats, it wouldn't surprise me. He's that good."

Rodriguez, though, has had some success getting Pujols out. The seven-time All-Star is only 3-for-18 lifetime against the Houston left-hander, and none of those hits went for extra bases.

Rodriguez is 2-2 with a 1.11 ERA in his last five starts against the Cardinals dating to Sept. 20, 2007.

Getting Pujols to go quietly, however, won't be easy. The reigning NL MVP is 9-for-21 with three homers and five walks this season.

"I am just blown away by that guy," starter Adam Wainwright told the Cardinals' official Web site after pitching five shutout innings Saturday. "I think he's the best hitter of all time. I think there's never been a better hitter than him."

Kyle Lohse (1-0, 2.57) will get the ball for St. Louis, and he didn't waste any time building on his career year in 2008, when he went 15-6 with a 3.78 ERA. The veteran right-hander gave up three runs - two earned - in seven solid innings Tuesday in a 9-3 win over Pittsburgh.

"I felt like I was a little too juiced early, and the ball was getting up on me," Lohse said. "But after that, I felt like I settled in and tried to ground out the last couple innings. I didn't have my best stuff at the end, but I made it work."

At least part of Lohse's breakout season came at the expense of the Astros. He went 3-0 with a 2.42 ERA in four starts versus Houston, and in the one outing where he didn't receive a decision he gave up two runs over eight innings while striking out six.

Astros left fielder Carlos Lee, who averaged 112 RBIs the past three seasons, has driven in just one run so far, but he may be happy to see Lohse. Lee is hitting .373 (19-for-51) with four homers and six doubles lifetime against the Cardinals' right-hander.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 12, 2009

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