(Sports Network) - The departure of a few familiar faces has yet to slow down the Houston Astros, who'll be attempting to extend a season-best winning streak to seven games in tonight's matchup with the St. Louis Cardinals from Busch Stadium.
The Astros haven't lost since dealing away franchise stalwarts Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman in the days leading up to last Saturday's trade deadline, and will set their sights tonight on winning seven straight contests for the first time since an eight-game tear from August 27-September 3.
Houston has shown plenty of resiliency as well during the streak, as the club has put forth late rallies to prevail each of its last two times out. After claiming a 5-2 verdict over Milwaukee on Sunday thanks to a pinch-hit grand slam by Jason Michaels in the seventh inning, the Astros erupted for seven runs over the final two frames to earn a 9-4 come-from-behind victory over the Cardinals in last night's opener of this three-game series.
The Astros scored three times in the top of the eighth inning to overcome a 4-2 deficit, then tacked on four more runs in the ninth to put the game out of reach. Jeff Keppinger had a two-run single and an RBI double during the rally and knocked in four runs on the night, while Chris Johnson went 2-for-5 with two RBI to help Houston continue its winning ways.
"What a team win we had out there [Monday]," said Houston manager Brad Mills. "You could hear the guys talking, pulling for one another, especially in the ninth. It was a good game we had out there."
The Astros' eighth-inning surge off relievers Jason Motte and Mike MacDougal (1-1) spoiled the Cardinals debut of Jake Westbrook. The veteran pitcher, acquired from Cleveland on Saturday, was in line for the win after holding Houston to two runs and four hits while striking out seven over six innings of work.
"He was very impressive out there," said St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa about Westbrook. "He had good stuff, worked quickly, moved the ball around and played his position. He was impressive."
Houston starter Brett Myers also threw six innings and was reached for three runs -- two earned -- on only three hits. Nelson Figueroa (3-1) wound up with the win despite giving up a run-scoring double to Felipe Lopez in the bottom of the seventh.
Lopez ended 2-for-3 and Albert Pujols also collected two hits -- including a solo homer -- for St. Louis, which had a three-game win streak snapped and fell a half-game behind Cincinnati for first place in the National League Central with Monday's defeat.
The Cardinals have also lost five straight times to the Astros at Busch Stadium, and Houston has now won six of the 10 meetings between the divisional foes so far this season.
St. Louis could be in for another challenge this evening, considering how Astros scheduled starter Bud Norrishas handled the team in the past. Norris has just three wins during this 2010 campaign, but two of them have come against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. For his career, the sophomore right- hander is 4-1 with a sensational 1.60 earned run average in five encounters with St. Louis.
In his two road victories over the Cardinals this year, Norris has yielded just two runs -- one earned -- and racked up 17 strikeouts over a combined 13 innings. He was reached for five runs in 7 2/3 frames during a home loss to St. Louis on July 9, however.
The 25-year-old does come into tonight's clash off a strong performance in his last start, with Norris limiting theCubs to one unearned run and fanning seven over six innings this past Wednesday at Minute Maid Park.
Jaime Garcia aims to get the Cardinals back on track, while attempting to enhance his credentials for the NL's Rookie of the Year award in the process, when he takes the mound tonight for the visitors. The young left-hander sports a 9-4 record in 20 starts during his full season in the majors, while his 2.33 ERA currently ranks fourth among NL hurlers at the moment.
Garcia has been especially good on the road, having produced a spectacular 1.60 ERA along with a 4-1 record in nine away starts. The 24-year-old also enters his first career assignment with the Astros with two wins and three no- decisions since his last loss, a June 27 setback at Kansas City.
In his most recent appearance, Garcia permitted three runs in a six-inning no- decision at the New York Mets on Wednesday.