(Sports Network) – The suddenly-streaking St. Louis Cardinals could be without two of their top hitters when they go for a two-game sweep of the Houston Astros this afternoon from Busch Stadium.
Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman both departed Wednesday’s 5-1 win over the Astros and are not expected to be in today’s starting lineup. Holliday experienced tightness in his left quadriceps in the third inning and said that he won’t know his status until he runs. Berkman departed in the fifth inning with a jammed wrist after making a great diving catch in right field. X-rays on the wrist were negative and Berkman doesn’t believe it’s too serious.
“I don’t think it’s too, too bad,” Berkman said on the team’s site. “I think it’s sprained. I think it’s more than just, ‘Oh, it’s sore,’ but I don’t think it’s as serious as being out a long time.”
The Cardinals have won three in a row and nine of 15 games to pull within a half-game of Cincinnati for the NL Central lead. In last night’s victory over the division-rival Astros, Jon Jay drove in two runs during a four-run third inning and Albert Pujols added an RBI single for St. Louis, which hasn’t won four in a row since closing out April with four straight victories. Yadier Molina had three hits for his fourth consecutive multi-hit game.
Berkman’s injury opened the door for Peter Kozma, who was recalled from Triple-A Memphis before the game and stroked an RBI double during the fifth inning in his major league debut. Kyle Lohse pushed his record to 5-2 with eight solid innings on the hill, allowing one run and six hits.
“Early on, I felt like I was kind of full on my fastball and missing a little bit, but after I got that figured out, it seemed like things got a little smoother,” Lohse said. “It’s always good to get the guys off the field as quick as possible.”
St. Louis is scheduled begin a nine-game road trip after today’s game, with visits to Kansas City, San Diego and Colorado, and will send Kyle McClellan to the mound against the ‘Stros. In his first year as a starter, McClellan is 5-1 with a 3.62 earned run average in eight games (7 starts) and is coming off his first loss of the season. He previously took the mound in Saturday’s 7-3 loss at Cincinnati and yielded four runs in six frames.
McClellan has given up four runs or more in three of his last four appearances and defeated Houston back on April 28 at Minute Maid Park. The right-hander is 1-2 with a 4.07 ERA in 18 career games (1 start) in this series.
Houston is riding a four-game losing streak and lost for the ninth time in 11 tries with last night’s four-run setback. Chris Johnson’s RBI single to score Carlos Lee in the seventh inning accounted for the Houston scoring, while starter Bud Norris dropped to 2-3 for allowing all five runs in five innings.
“They were swinging the bats pretty early in the counts, and I’m sure that was probably part of their game plan,” Norris said. “That’s a good-hitting lineup, and we’ve been fortunate enough to do so well against them the last couple of times. You can’t hold them down forever.”
The Astros are 0-3 on a seven-game road trip through Atlanta, St. Louis and Toronto, and have the worst record in the National League at 15-28.
Toeing the rubber for Houston Thursday will be J.A. Happ. Happ is 2-0 in three outings since a three-start losing streak and is coming off two solid starts in which he yielded a pair of runs in six innings. The lefty put that line up in Saturday’s 7-3 triumph over the New York Mets and moved within one win of the .500 mark at 3-4 in eight starts with a 5.40 ERA.
Happ lost to St. Louis on April 27 even though he limited the Cardinals to two runs in five innings of a 6-5 decision. He is 1-3 with a 5.27 ERA in five career starts against the Cardinals.
St. Louis won two of three meetings with Houston in late April, but the Astros are still a dominant 11-6 in the previous 17 matchups between the clubs.