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News » Cardinals-Astros Preview 2008-08-28

Cardinals-Astros Preview 2008-08-28

Cardinals-Astros Preview 2008-08-28
The St. Louis Cardinals could have been understandably discouraged after the seventh inning of their last game, one that looked like it would be their second consecutive loss to the only team ahead of them in the wild-card race.

After rallying to win, however, the Cardinals are as optimistic about their playoff chances as they've been all season.

The Cardinals look to continue their playoff push when they open a three-game series against the Houston Astros on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.

St. Louis (74-60) suffered a 12-0 defeat in the opener of a two-game set against Milwaukee on Tuesday, and appeared to be on the verge of a second straight defeat when it left the bases loaded in the seventh while trailing 3-1 on Wednesday night.

However, after Brewers reliever Carlos Villanueva incited a shouting match with Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols by making emphatic gestures toward the St. Louis dugout, Pujols responded with a leadoff double in the eighth. That hit sparked a rally, and the Cardinals scored four runs to earn a 5-3 victory and improve to 5-39 when trailing after seven innings.

"I didn't appreciate it and I had to let him know," said Pujols, who took over the major league lead with a .357 average. "I guess he did us a favor. He woke up a sleeping giant."

Instead of falling 5 1/2 games back in the wild-card race, the Cardinals pulled within 3 1/2 of the Brewers.

"It's a huge difference," reliever Ryan Franklin, who got the win Wednesday, told the Cardinals' official Web site. "Three and a half is like a series - a series away from leading it. We've still got 28 games left. That's plenty of time."

The Cardinals have to like that three of those games are against the Astros (68-66), whom they've dominated in 2008. St. Louis is 8-4 against Houston, including 4-2 at Minute Maid Park.

Part of that success is due to Kyle Lohse (13-6, 3.96 ERA), who'll make his fourth start of the year against Houston on Friday. The right-hander won the first three starts, holding the Astros to 14 hits in 18 innings while posting a 2.50 ERA.

Though he's fared well against Houston, Lohse hasn't had as much success against other opponents lately. He's 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA in his last four starts - all St. Louis losses. He gave up three runs and eight hits in six innings of the Cardinals' 8-4 defeat to Atlanta on Saturday.

Lohse will face a Houston team coming off a 3-2 victory over Cincinnati. Ty Wigginton hit two solo home runs, and is batting .386 with 22 RBIs in his last 23 games. He leads the NL with 10 homers this month.

"I'm pretty confident in my swing," said Wigginton, 3-for-8 lifetime against Lohse. "I've always felt like, given at-bats, my numbers will always be there."

Randy Wolf (8-11, 4.86) gets the start for the Astros, who have won five of the left-hander's six starts since acquiring him from San Diego on July 22. Wolf gave up four runs in six innings of Houston's 6-4, 10-inning victory over New York on Sunday.

He's 3-4 with a 3.96 ERA in eight starts against St. Louis.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: August 29, 2008

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