(Sports Network) - The confidence level in the St. Louis Cardinals clubhouse just got a boost after sweeping the Philadelphia Phillies in two games at Busch Stadium. Now the NL's worst team invades the Gateway City, as the Houston Astros begin a two-game set tonight with the host Cardinals.
The Cardinals ended a three-game losing streak with Monday's win over the Phillies, then recorded the sweep after last night's 2-1 victory thanks to Lance Berkman's game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning. Phils reliever Danys Baez loaded the bases in the pivotal frame and got Matt Holliday to ground into a fielder's choice for the first out. The bags were still full when J.C. Romero came on for Baez and promptly gave up the game-winning hit to Berkman.
"I just wanted to see the ball and try to, even if you get beat a little bit, still hit a fly ball and try to get that guy in," Berkman said.
Yadier Molina went 3-for-4 with an RBI, while Albert Pujols also had three hits and Berkman, Ryan Theriot and Jon Jay finished with two hits apiece for the Cardinals, who had a 13-5 advantage in hits and got eight strong innings from starter Jaime Garcia. Garcia gave up one unearned run in the no-decision and Fernando Salas collected the victory with a scoreless top of the ninth.
The Cardinals are 1 1/2 games behind Cincinnati for the NL Central lead and have won seven of their last 12 contests.
Since winning four straight starts Cardinals pitcher Kyle Lohse is just 0-1 with a 3.60 earned run average in his past three outings -- all St. Louis losses. Lohse will take the ball tonight after not factoring in the outcome of Friday's 6-5 loss at Cincinnati. He allowed two runs over six innings to remain at 4-2 in eight starts with a 2.31 ERA.
Lohse, a right-hander, defeated Houston on April 27 at Minute Maid Park, hurling seven shutout innings in a 6-5 win. He is 7-7 in 15 career appearances, 14 of which have been starts, against the Astros with a 2.96 ERA over that span.
Houston has the worst record in the National League at 15-27 and began a seven-game road trip by losing two meetings with the Atlanta Braves. In Tuesday's 3-1 loss in 11 innings, Braves catcher Brian McCann stroked a game- winning two-run homer off of Astros reliever Jeff Fulchino with one out in the bottom of the 11th. McCann also homered off of Mark Melancon in the ninth to even the score at 1-1.
The Astros wasted eight scoreless innings from Wandy Rodriguez, who struck out six batters, allowed five hits and walked two in the no-decision. Hunter Pence and Clint Barmes both had two hits, while Brett Wallace accounted for the Houston scoring with a home run in the seventh inning.
"It was definitely tough," Wallace said about the loss. "We grinded out the game. We are just trying to do everything we can to get better and get some more wins. That one just slipped away from us. We have to learn from it and move on."
Carlos Lee went 0-for-4 to have his 10-game hitting streak halted.
Houston will also visit Toronto for three games on the current trek and will send Bud Norris to the St. Louis mound tonight. Norris is 2-2 with a 3.42 earned run average in eight starts this season and previously pitched in Friday's 6-4 setback to the New York Mets in which he allowed four runs in 7 1/3 innings for the no-decision.
Norris faced the Cardinals in a 6-5 win on April 26 at home and permitted three unearned runs through six frames in a no-decision. The right-hander has enjoyed success against the Cardinals in his career as evidenced by his 5-1 mark and 1.97 ERA over seven starts. Houston hopes that carries over into Wednesday's contest.
St. Louis won two of three meetings with Houston in late April, but the Astros are still a dominant 11-5 in the previous 16 matchups between the clubs.