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Astros Open Home Series With Struggling Cardinals

(Sports Network) - The St. Louis Cardinals will begin the last leg of what has been a disappointing road trip tonight, when they take on the Houston Astros in the first of three straight games from Minute Maid Park.

The Cardinals have lost 10 of their last 14 contests to fall five games behind Cincinnati for the NL Central lead and three games off the pace in the wild card standings. They lost three of four matchups in Washington and dropped a 4-2 decision Sunday even with stud right-hander Adam Wainwright on the mound.

Wainwright suffered his third straight loss, permitting all four runs and six hits in five innings.

Pedro Feliz homered and both Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina posted two hits for the punchless Cardinals, who are 2-5 on this 10-game road trip.

"It was not a good offensive game for us," said St. Louis manager Tony La Russa. "We didn't put anything together and we're better than that."

St. Louis will send Jake Westbrook to the mound Monday and it hasn't been scoring much runs for him either. In a 5-2 loss last Wednesday at Pittsburgh, Westbrook allowed four runs and six hits in six innings to fall to 1-2 with a 4.06 ERA in five starts with his new club.

Westbrook, a right-hander, threw six innings of two-run ball versus the Astros in a no-decision on August 2 and is 0-1 in two career starts against them.

Houston lost two of three matchups with the New York Mets over the weekend and is coming off yesterday's 5-1 loss in which starter Bud Norris gave up five runs on eight hits and three walks over 5 2/3 innings.

Michael Bourn had the lone RBI off of Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, while Tommy Manzella, Geoff Blum and Jason Castro collected two hits apiece for the Astros, who lost for just the second time in their previous eight games. The 'Stros entered the New York series riding a five-game winning streak.

"The one thing about knuckleball pitchers is you really never know," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "You can beat them up one day and they can come back and still get to you and vice versa. With him (Dickey) this year he's been consistent."

J.A. Happ will make his seventh start with Houston tonight and defeated his former team, the Phillies, last Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park. Acquired from Philadelphia as part of the Roy Oswalt deal, Happ held the Phillies to a pair of runs in 6 1/3 innings to push his Houston mark to 3-2 with a 4.26 ERA.

The young left-hander will shoot for a measure of revenge tonight against the Cardinals, who pounded Happ for seven runs in one inning back on August 4. Happ is just 0-2 with a 9.45 ERA in three career starts against St. Louis.

Houston has won seven of 12 meetings with the Cardinals this season.

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.