(Sports Network) - The skidding St. Louis Cardinals can climb within a game of first place to end the season's unofficial first half today, when they visit Minute Maid Park for the finale of a three-game series with the Houston Astros.
The Cardinals fell, 4-1, to the Astros in Saturday's middle test and remained two games in back of the first-place Cincinnati Reds in the National League's Central Division. Cincinnati lost, 1-0, in 11 innings at Philadelphia - the third straight time they've lost to the Phillies in extra frames.
Houston's Jeff Keppinger had two hits, including a home run, to back another strong outing from Brett Myers in Houston's victory last night. Pedro Feliz chipped in with a two-run single for the Astros, who have won four of their last five.
Myers (6-6) went eight innings to grab the win, yielding just the lone run on five hits while fanning five. The right-hander is the only starting pitcher in the big leagues to have gone six innings or more in each of his starts (18) this year.
Houston closer Matt Lindstrom worked around a pair of walks in the ninth to register his 21st save of the season.
Jeff Suppan (0-5) took the loss in his 100th career start as a member of the Cardinals after giving up four runs on seven hits and three walks over 4 2/3 innings. St. Louis fell for a fourth time in their its five games.
Second-year righty Blake Hawksworth gets the start tonight for St. Louis, just the fifth time in his career he'll open a game on the mound.
The 27-year-old Canadian was used exclusively out of the bullpen last season, making 30 appearances, then began this season with 18 relief outings before a spot start June 7 at the Los Angeles Dodgers. He returned to the bullpen for three more stints before beginning a stretch of three starts with a win at Kansas City on June 26.
Hawksworth was touched for eight hits and two runs in five innings his last time out, getting a no-decision in the Cardinals' 12-9 loss at Colorado on Tuesday. He tossed an inning of scoreless relief against the Astros on May 12 and has allowed just one hit in four relief innings spanning four appearances versus Houston.
For Houston, lefty Wandy Rodriguez faces the Cardinals for the third time this season. The 31-year-old dropped a 5-0 decision on April 12 in St. Louis, then bounced back for a 9-6 win in a subsequent road matchup on May 12. In those outings, he's combined to give up 12 hits and eight earned runs in 10 1/3 innings.
Lifetime against St. Louis, Rodriguez is just 4-10 with a 4.29 earned run average in 17 appearances.
He's won three straight starts after beginning the season at 3-10, however, the most recent coming against Pittsburgh on Tuesday. In the three wins, Rodriguez has given up 15 hits and four runs in 20 innings.
With Saturday's win, the Astros have now taken five of eight matchups with St. Louis thus far this season.