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Houston at St. Louis

Venue: Busch Stadium
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The St. Louis Cardinals benefited from another team's late collapse to make the playoffs and go on to win the World Series last season. They're hoping to avoid being on the other end of that situation this year.

The Cardinals will try to get headed in the right direction during an advantageous portion of schedule that begins Tuesday night against Houston, though the last-place Astros have been playing relatively well of late.

St. Louis (77-70) earned a split of a four-game series in Los Angeles this past weekend to move a game ahead of the Dodgers for the second NL wild-card berth, winning 5-2 in 12 innings Sunday.

"We haven't been playing too well lately, but we've been playing hard," outfielder Jon Jay said. "Every game from here on out is our most important game. We've been there before, so we know what we've got to do. It's just a matter of doing it."

The Cardinals have gone 6-13 in their last 19 and 3-8 in their past 11 - struggles reminiscent of Atlanta's 8-18 finish to 2011, which allowed St. Louis to clinch the wild card on the final day of the season.

The Cardinals appear to have a great opportunity to avoid following the same path with nine straight games against the two bottom teams in the NL Central. After hosting the Astros, they'll play six on the road against Chicago and Houston.

While the Astros (48-99) are in danger of surpassing the franchise record of 106 losses set last year, they've won six of 10 after taking three of four from Philadelphia, which came to town with a seven-game winning streak.

Houston is on the verge of winning three in a row for the first time since a four-game run May 21-25.

"The guys don't quit," interim manager Tony DeFrancesco told the team's official website. "It seems like they've got some life and some fire."

St. Louis, though, has won five straight in the series and eight of 10 meetings at Busch Stadium after a three-game sweep Aug. 21-23.

The Cardinals will try to continue that success with help from Kyle Lohse (14-3, 2.81 ERA). The right-hander has given up three or fewer runs in 17 of his past 19 starts but had an eight-game win streak snapped with a 3-2 loss to San Diego on Wednesday.

He allowed three runs over six innings while striking out eight.

"Those are the starts we need to capitalize on," manager Mike Matheny told the team's website. "Certainly, he did what he could do."

Lohse has gone 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA in his last four starts against Houston, and 5-2 with a 2.06 ERA in seven home matchups with the Astros since signing with St. Louis before the 2008 season, in which he won a career-high 15 games.

The Astros will send out Fernando Abad (0-4, 5.08) for his fifth career start, all since joining the rotation in late August. The left-hander gave up one run in 3 1-3 innings against Chicago on Wednesday and suffered a 5-1 defeat.

Plagued by high pitch counts in all of his starts, Abad has not pitched more than 4 1-3 innings in any of them and has taken the loss each time.

"Abad is going to have to battle," DeFrancesco told the team's website. "We're trying to get him to make quality pitches."

St. Louis first baseman Allen Craig is riding a 10-game hit streak and has gone 7 for 19 with six RBIs in his last four contests. He's a career .439 hitter against the Astros and has batted .462 in eight all-time matchups at home.

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Probable Starters

Fernando Abad, LHP
2012 stats
39.0 Innings Pitched 192.0
0-4 Wins-Losses 14-3
5.08 Earned Run Average 2.81
17 Walks 34
30 Strikeouts 124
78 Pitches Per Start 94
Career vs. opponent
4.1 Innings Pitched 114.1
0-1 Wins-Losses 9-8
10.38 Earned Run Average 2.91

Kyle Lohse, RHP
Weather
weather image  Sunny. Cool.
Hi TempLo TempWindHumidityPrecip %
66°F47°F12mph/NW39%5%
Standings
TeamStandingsWLPct.GBL 10Strk
Houston4th AL West6987.442274-6 W 2
St. Louis1st NL Central8769.558-7-3 L 1
BATTER VS. PITCHER (Career)
vs Kyle Lohse
PlayerABHHRBBSOAVG
Harrell110001.000
Altuve63100.500
Lowrie31000.333
Wallace93101.333
Schafer41011.250
 
BATTER VS. PITCHER (Career)
vs Fernando Abad
PlayerABHHRBBSOAVG
Beltran21000.500
Berkman21100.500
Boggs000000
Carpenter100000
Chambers000000
 
Game Odds
AwayLineHomeLine
Houston 240 St. Louis -280
Injuries
Houston
PlayerInjury
M. AlbersShoulder
J. CisneroElbow
J. CrainBiceps, calf
D. DownsOblique
J. FieldsOblique
G. SpringerKnee, quadriceps
J. ZeidFoot
St. Louis
PlayerInjury
M. Adamsillness
M. CarpenterIllness
J. GarciaShoulder
S. RobinsonShoulder
 
Series Game Log
DateatResult/TimeWinnerLoser
Apr 11STLCHC 6-3Grimm Rosenthal 
Apr 12STLSTL 10-4Wainwright Villanueva 
Apr 13STLSTL 6-4Wacha Jackson 
May 2CHCCHC 6-5Wood Wainwright 
May 3CHCCHC 3-0Schlitter Wacha 
May 4CHCSTL 5-4Siegrist Rondon 
May 12STLCHC 17-5Wood Lyons 
May 13STLSTL 4-3Maness Grimm 
May 14STLPPD   
May 15STLSTL 5-3Wacha Hammel 
Jul 25CHCCHC 7-6Grimm Siegrist 
Jul 26CHCSTL 6-3Choate Russell 
Jul 27CHCSTL 1-0Wainwright Hendricks 
Aug 29STLCHC 7-2Ramirez Neshek 
Aug 30STLCHC 5-1Doubront Masterson 
Aug 30STLSTL 13-2Gonzales Wada 
Aug 31STLSTL 9-6Neshek Villanueva 
Sep 22CHC 8:05 PM EDT  
Sep 23CHC 8:05 PM EDT  
Sep 24CHC 8:05 PM EDT