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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