(Sports Network) - Right-hander Adam Wainwright can keep the St. Louis Cardinals within shouting distance of first place tonight when they head to Minute Maid Park to begin a three-game series with the Houston Astros prior to the all-star break.
St. Louis trails the first-place Cincinnati Reds by three games in the National League's Central Division and missed a chance to gain ground Thursday by losing a 4-2 decision to Ubaldo Jimenez and the Colorado Rockies.
The Reds lost, 4-3, to Philadelphia.
Wainwright, who'll turn 29 next month, has bounced back to win two straight since his poorest outing of the season, a four-inning stint in which he allowed five runs in a 5-0 interleague loss at Toronto.
He threw 6 1/3 innings of scoreless ball against Arizona five days later in an 8-0 win, then allowed a single run on five hits while going the distance for a 7-1 defeat of Milwaukee on July 4.
Wainwright went eight innings in a 5-0 defeat of the Astros in St. Louis on April 12 and is 8-1 against them in 16 career appearances - 10 starts - with a 1.72 earned run average in 78 1/3 innings.
The Georgia native is just 3-5 in nine road starts this season, with his last away-from-home triumph coming May 30 against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
For Houston, 25-year-old right Bud Norris makes his career-high 12th start of the season.
The former sixth-round draft pick (2006) debuted in the majors with 11 starts last season and won six times while posting a 4.53 ERA across 55 2/3 innings.
He's logged precisely the same number of innings across 11 starts this season, but is just 2-5 overall and hasn't won since defeating the Cardinals, 4-1, on May 13.
In fact, both of his 2010 wins have come on the road against St. Louis, including an April 15 triumph at Busch Stadium as well.
In four career starts against the Cardinals, he is 4-0 and has allowed just one earned run in 26 innings while walking nine batters and striking out 25.
Norris is 0-3 in five home starts in 2010.
On Thursday in Denver, Jimenez (15-1) yielded a lone run on three hits while walking two and striking out six, as the Rockies did not need any ninth-inning dramatics to finish off a series sweep. Huston Street earned his third save of the season despite giving up a run in the ninth.
Chris Carpenter (9-3) absorbed the loss after allowing four runs on nine hits over six frames, while walking two and striking out three for the Cardinals, who have lost four out of five.
In Houston, Lance Berkman belted two solo home runs to support Roy Oswalt's complete-game one-hitter in the Astros' 2-0 blanking of Pittsburgh that completed a three-game sweep.
Oswalt (6-10) issued a pair of walks and struck out eight and allowed only a first-inning single by Neil Walker to finish off his first full-distance shutout since he blanked the Pirates on Sept. 11, 2008.
Houston is 4-2 against the Cardinals this season.