(Sports Network) - The St. Louis Cardinals will leave the friendly confines of Busch Stadium for a bit as they begin a three-city, nine-game road trip tonight with the first of three straight games against the NL Central-rival Houston Astros from Minute Maid Park.
St. Louis will also visit Milwaukee and Washington, and is coming off a three- game sweep of the Chicago Cubs in the Gateway City. It has posted consecutive extra-inning victories and handed the rival Cubs a 3-2 loss in 10 innings on Sunday thanks to another big home run from superstar Albert Pujols. Pujols homered with two outs in the 12th inning of a 5-4 victory Saturday and led off the 10th frame with a home run in a 3-2 triumph Sunday.
"I got a good pitch to hit and just put a good swing on it," Pujols said.
Allen Craig and Ryan Theriot both knocked in runs, while Craig has hit safely in 13 of his past 16 games for the Cardinals, who are 14-6 over the past 20 games and own a 1 1/2-game lead over Milwaukee for the NL Central lead. Chris Carpenter lasted nine innings on the hill to no avail and limited the Cubs to two runs and seven hits. Fernando Salas got the win with a scoreless 10th.
Former longtime Astro and current Cardinals outfielder/first baseman Lance Berkman is expected to be in the lineup tonight after receiving a cortisone injection in his left wrist. Berkman did not play in Sunday's game and is batting .329 with 12 homers and 40 RBI this season. His slugging percentage is one of the best at .599. Theriot, meanwhile, is on a 19-game hitting streak.
Taking the ball in tonight's series opener for the Cardinals will be Jake Westbrook and he's 5-3 with a 5.15 ERA in 12 starts. Westbrook has won his last three decisions and did not figure into the outcome of Wednesday's 7-5 loss versus San Francisco, as he tossed 5 2/3 innings and gave up three runs.
Westbrook is 3-1 in six road outings this season, but is winless (0-2) in three career starts against Houston.
Houston lost the last three meetings of a four-game series with San Diego and dropped a 7-2 decision on Sunday, as starter Jordan Lyles was saddled with the loss for giving up four runs in four innings.
"They made me pay for my mistakes," said Lyles. "On top of that, I didn't really feel good throwing the ball over the plate."
Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee both drove in a run, while Pence is riding a career-best 17-game hitting streak for the Astros, who went 4-3 on a seven- game road trip. Pence's streak is the longest by an Astros player since Miguel Tejada did it in 21 straight games from Sept. 11-Oct. 4, 1999. Pence owns three homers and 13 RBI during the current run.
The Astros will start a 10-game homestand versus the Cardinals, Braves and Pirates tonight, and hope Brett Myers can get the ballclub back on track when he toes the rubber. Myers ended a lengthy win drought his last time out in a 3-1 triumph over the Chicago Cubs with six innings of one-run ball for his first victory since April 12.
Myers had been 0-4 in eight starts between victories and pushed his record to 2-4 with a 4.82 ERA in 12 outings. The right-hander will face St. Louis for the 18th time in his career, going 6-3 with a 4.45 ERA in the previous 17 appearances, 15 of which have been starts, in this series.
St. Louis has won four of five matchups with Houston this season after the Astros compiled a 10-5 mark in the 2010 series.