Never Fear, Carlos Corporan Is Here!

SB Nation Houston's coverage of the Cardinals Astros series from June 7th-10th

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Astros Option Robinson Cancel Down, Purchase Carlos Corporan's Contract

In a move that perfectly defines the old adage of deck chairs on the Titanic, the Astros have recalled a now-healthy Carlos Corporan from AAA Oklahoma City and sent Robinson Cancel back down in his place. Cancel, who drew one walk in his seven plate appearances while catching Jordan Lyles, at least managed to become one of the most random players in MLB history to catch in three separate decades. So there’s that.

Corporan is a career 1.000 MLB hitter in one plate appearance, but given his career .250/.307/.378 minor league line, he won’t be able to brag about that very long should he be the long-term backup catching solution to Humberto Quintero’s injury.

If you want to try some powerful mind-reading, you could guess that sending down Cancel, who acted as Jordan Lyles’ personal catcher in his two starts thus far, could mean that Lyles won’t survive Wandy Rodriguez’s return from the DL. Or you could smack yourself in the face over the fact that you’re attaching veteran value to Robinson Cancel and go about your day.

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Recently Released Bill Hall Drawing Interest From Orioles, Nationals

With a hat tip to Ken Rosenthal, it appears that ex-Astro Bill Hall, who recently cleared waivers and was released, has found plenty of suitors already:

The Orioles and Nationals are among the clubs pursuing Hall, major-league sources say. The Yankees, a team that liked Hall last off-season, might consider him as well.

Hall, 31, thrived in a utility role with the Red Sox last season, but batted only .224/.272/.340 with the Astros after signing a one-year, $3 million free-agent contract.

Hall’s versatility and power should continue to get him job offers, so this is not really surprising news. Hall may not have hit well with the Astros, but it was just two months. It’ll take more than that to wash away everyone’s memories of him with the Red Sox last year.

Which just makes it all the more perplexing that Wade didn’t try to hold onto him and give him four starts a week in advance of the trade deadline, but given how he handled the Brett Myers and Roy Oswalt situations last summer, it’s clear that his flaws as a general manager don’t stop at handing second basemen more money than they are worth.

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Berkman Powers Cardinals Past Astros

Houston, TX (Sports Network) – Lance Berkman went 2-for-5 with a home run and two RBI as St. Louis powered past Houston, 9-2, in the rubber match of its three-game series.

Lance Lynn (1-1) gave up just one run on six hits and fanned three over five full frames to earn his first Major League victory for the Cardinals, who have five of their last six games.

Albert Pujols went 1-for-4 with a double, RBI and two runs scored.

Hunter Pence went 2-for-4 and Brett Wallace went 1-for-4 with an RBI for the Astros, who have lost five of their last six.

J.A. Haap (3-8) was charged with the loss after being tagged for six runs on six hits over 5 1/3 innings pitched.

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Astros, Happ, Try To Take Series From Cardinals

(Sports Network) – After finally finding a way to cool off Albert Pujols and the majority of the Cardinals’ lineup, the Houston Astros hope J.A. Happ can pitch them to a series victory this evening in the finale of a three-game set with St. Louis at Minute Maid Park.

Behind Albert Pujols’ fifth homer in four games, the Cardinals took Tuesday’s opener by a 7-4 margin to run their winning streak to four straight games, but were held to just two hits in last night’s 4-1 loss.

Houston starter Bud Norris carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning before yielding a two-out homer to Lance Berkman that barely cleared the fence in right. It was the lone hit Norris gave up over his eight-inning start, though he did walk five in the victory.

“He really kept the ball down in the zone. He had 11 ground ball outs, which I think is really huge for him,” Astros manager Brad Mills said of his starter.

Berkman was also impressed with his former teammate.

“He’s got great stuff, a great mentality. He reminds me a lot a Roger Clemens in terms of his aggressiveness and mound presence, and that’s about as high a praise as I can give somebody,” Berkman said.

Carlos Lee and Jason Michaels both drove in a run, while Hunter Pence extended his career-best hitting streak to 19 straight games as the Astros halted a four-game losing streak overall and five-game slide to the Cardinals.

Pence is hitting .383 (31-for-81) over his hitting streak, the longest by a Houston player since Miguel Tejada’s 21-gamer in 2009. He will try to keep his run going tonight and support Happ, who will be looking to halt a three- decision losing streak.

Despite lowering his earned run average for an eighth straight start, Happ took a loss in San Diego on Friday. The southpaw was charged with three runs on six hits and two walks over six innings of a 3-1 setback, falling to 3-7 in 12 starts this year with a 4.65 ERA.

The 28-year-old Happ is 1-4 with a 5.13 ERA in six career starts versus the Cardinals, including a pair of losses in 2011. He has been charged with five runs over 11 innings in that span, giving up homers to Allen Craig, Tyler Greene and Matt Holliday. Happ, though, won’t have to worry about Craig (right knee) or Holliday (quadriceps) tonight because of injury.

Happ will have to find a way to slow down Berkman in his former ballpark. The St. Louis slugger is 10-for-20 in five games at Minute Maid Park this year, slugging four homers with 10 RBI.

After Jaime Garcia lasted just five innings and allowed three runs in last night’s loss, the Cardinals turn to Lance Lynn tonight in the 24-year-old’s second major league start.

Lynn won three straight starts and four decisions in a row with Triple-A Memphis this year before getting called-up to make the start last Thursday versus the Giants. The right-hander’s luck didn’t follow him to the big leagues as he gave up five runs on four hits with five strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings of a loss.

Lynn did retire the first 10 batters he faced before hitting Tejada with a pitch and then serving up a homer to Aubrey Huff in the fourth inning.

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Astros Activate Brandon Lyon From DL, Will 'Ease' Him Into Closer Role

The Houston Astros announced after yesterday’s game that they will activate reliever Brandon Lyon from the DL, optioning Jose Valdez back to AAA Oklahoma City. Lyon pitched two scoreless innings of rehab in two appearances for the RedHawks, and all of the sudden, with Lyon back, the Astros have a closer competition. Wait…what?

Mills said he discounts the 7.15 earned run average, four blown saves in eight opportunities and .389 batting average allowed in 12 appearances as the result of Lyon’s physical problems. In 2010, Lyon had a 3.12 ERA and converged 20 of 22 save chances.

“He was not able to locate the ball like he wanted to, and that’s not Brandon when he’s able to throw,” Mills said. “A lot of times when there is an injury, that’s one of the first things to come out – not the decline in velocity, but the (loss of) ability to locate.”

Lyon was never a good fit to close to begin with, seeing as how he has mediocre stuff at best, pitches to contact, and walks quite a few batters. He had an ERA of 3.12, but his xFIP per Fangraphs was 4.47. Yeah, he got hurt, and it’s hard to lose your job because you get hurt, but Mark Melancon has been sterling in Lyon’s absence, blowing just one save in the past month.

One wonders if the Astros are just doing this in a futile attempt to pump up his trade value by inflating it with a bunch of saves, because from a pure numbers standpoint, this move makes no sense. And yes, I do say that as a bitter Melancon fantasy owner.

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Astros Inches Away From First No-No Since 2003

That small distance is all that stood between Houston starter Bud Norris and the Astros’ first no-hitter since 2003. Instead, he had to settle for allowing one hit, a solo home run by ex-Astro Lance Berkman with two outs in the seventh, in a 4-1 victory over the Cardinals at Minute Maid Park.

Berkman drove a down-and-in pitch just out of the reach of a leaping Hunter Pence in right, falling in the first row of the seats, breaking up Norris’ run at history. Houston’s last no-hitter was accomplished by Roy Oswalt and five others against the Yankees, but this was shaping up to be a solo act.

Norris had walked five, but held the Cardinals at bay, and it appeared it might be his night when Clint Barmes dove to his right and snagged Jon Jay’s liner destined for left field leading off the seventh. After retiring Albert Pujols, Berkman stepped in and deposited a Norris mistake in the seats, adding to his mastery of Houston pitching at Minute Maid Park this season. He is 10- for-20 with four home runs and 10 runs batted in over five games at his former park this season.

Norris (4-4) struck out just two over his eight frames of work and was backed up by an RBI from Carlos Lee and Jason Michaels. Pence pushed his career-high hitting streak to 19 games as well for Houston, which snapped a four-game losing streak. Mark Melancon worked the ninth for his sixth save.

Jaime Garcia (6-2) threw a lot of pitches in the loss, falling just short of 100 in five innings while surrendering three runs on seven hits with a pair of walks and one strikeout. The Cardinals saw their four-game winning streak come to an end.

The Astros scored a pair of runs in the third as Jeff Keppinger singled to center with one out and round the rest of the bases when Pence hit a moon shot that went up the hill in dead center field for a triple. Lee’s groundout plated him for the two-run cushion.

In the fifth, Jason Bouregeois singled, stole second and scored on Jason Michaels single to left. Michael Bourn pinch hit in the eighth, driving in an insurance tally with a single to center.

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Cardinals Vs. Astros: Norris Will Try To End Five Game Losing Streak

(Sports Network) – When Albert Pujols starts to heat up, it’s bad news for everybody except the St. Louis Cardinals.

The slugging first baseman has homered in four straight games and will try to keep rolling tonight in the second installment of a three-game series against the Houston Astros from Minute Maid Park.

Pujols has hit five homers during the streak and is one game shy of matching his career high for most consecutive games going deep, set back in 2007.

The former NL MVP cracked a solo home run in the eighth inning during Tuesday’s 7-4 victory, the Cardinals’ fourth in a row and 15th in the past 21 games. Former Astros slugger Lance Berkman set the tone with a two-run home run in the first inning in his return to the lineup. He missed Sunday’s win over the Chicago Cubs after receiving a cortisone shot in his ailing right wrist the previous day.

“That was huge to get us off the zero there,” said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa of Berkman’s home run. “Everything that happened, we needed every bit of it. The [final] score is very misleading.”

St. Louis’ Ryan Theriot was hitless in his first four at-bats, but then doubled in a run in the final inning to stretch his career-best hitting streak to 20 games.

In other injury news for the Cardinals, outfielder Allen Craig left the game in the first inning with a right knee contusion after he ran into the stands chasing a foul ball. He is day-to-day.

Cardinals winning pitcher Jake Westbrook stymied the Astros with his bat by stroking a bases-clearing double in the fourth inning to give his team a 5-2 advantage. Westbrook lasted 5 1/3 innings on the hill and allowed three runs — two earned — on eight hits and three walks to push his record to 6-3. Fernando Salas tossed the final two frames for his 11th save.

The Cardinals are 1-0 on a three-city, nine-game road trip and own a 2 1/2- game lead over Milwaukee in the National League Central. The Brewers lost to the New York Mets last night.

Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia was able to bounce back into the win column following his first loss of the season his last time out, and gets the nod tonight in Houston. Garcia was blasted for 12 runs — 11 earned — and 11 hits over 3 1/3 innings of a 15-4 blowout loss at Colorado on May 28. He then responded nicely in Friday’s 6-1 triumph over the Cubs, as he fired eight innings of one-run ball with eight strikeouts.

Garcia is 6-1 with a 3.05 earned run average in 12 starts this season. He is 2-1 in seven road outings and will face Houston for the second time in 2011, having pitched in a 6-5 loss at Minute Maid Park on April 26. He did not record a decision that day and yielded four runs — three earned — in six innings.

The left-hander is 0-1 with a 6.10 ERA in two career starts against the Astros.

Houston has dropped four in a row since a season-best four-game winning streak and began a 10-game homestand in losing fashion. Carlos Lee belted a two-run homer and Chris Johnson finished with two hits and an RBI for the Astros, who are 4-7 in their last 11 contests.

The Astros went 0-for-6 with the bases loaded and stranded 13 men on base. Outfielder Michael Bourn expressed his displeasure on that topic afterwards.

“I was up there twice and struck out twice with the bases loaded,” Bourn said on Houston’s site. “I take blame for that. We’re getting hits and had runners on. We left 13 on tonight, and with that said, you leave that many on and have that many opportunities — you have to try to seize the moment. I know I didn’t do my part of at least getting one in those two at-bats.”

Astros center fielder Hunter Pence went 2-for-4 with a run scored to extend his career-best hitting streak to 18 games. He has three homers and 13 RBI in that span.

Brett Myers got the start for Houston last night and gave up six hits and five runs over six innings to absorb the loss.

The Astros will also host Atlanta and Pittsburgh on this residency and have lost four in row at Minute Maid Park.

Bud Norris, who will get the starting nod for Houston tonight, was 1-4 with a 4.60 earned run average in a five-start span before coming out on top at San Diego his last time out on Thursday. He gave up four runs in six innings of a 7-4 win over the Padres. Norris received more than enough run support in the win, which improved him to 3-4 with a 3.95 ERA in 12 starts this year.

Norris, a right-hander, is 0-1 in two outings against St. Louis this season, but owns a solid 5-2 mark in eight career starts in this series.

St. Louis has won five of six matchups with Houston this season and five straight overall in the series. The Astros compiled a 10-5 mark in the 2010 series.

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Astros Drop Series Opener As Cardinals Win 7-4

Houston, TX (Sports Network) – Albert Pujols continued his power surge by blasting a mammoth solo home run and Lance Berkman drilled a two-run shot in the first inning against his former team in St. Louis’ 7-4 victory over the Astros.

Jake Westbrook delivered a three-run double and allowed eight hits and three runs over 5 1/3 innings. Westbrook (6-3) won his fourth consecutive decision.

Ryan Theriot was hitless in his first four at-bats, but then doubled in a run in the final inning to stretch his career-best hitting streak to 20 games.

Pujols, who belted back-to-back walk-off homers Saturday and Sunday vs. the Cubs, smashed a pitch from Enerio Del Rosario just below the railroad tracks beyond the wall in left in the eighth inning. It was his fifth homer in the last four games.

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Astros Return Home Hoping To Regroup Against Cardinals

(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.

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