The St. Louis Cardinals' Adam Wainwright finally earned his first win in 20 months despite not having his best stuff. Wainwright seeks to defeat Houston for a fourth straight time Sunday and help the NL Central-leading Cardinals avoid a three-game sweep at the hands of an Astros club riding its longest winning streak in almost two years. Wainwright (1-3, 6.75 ERA), who missed all of 2011 after tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow, lost his first three starts of the season while compiling a 9.88 ERA. He's pitched better the last two times he's taken the mound. After striking out a season-high seven over six innings of one-run ball during a 3-2, 10-inning loss to the Chicago Cubs on April 24, Wainwright allowed four runs over a season-high seven innings in Tuesday's 10-7 victory over Pittsburgh.
The Astros (13-14) know all too well of how formidable Wainwright can be. The 2010 NL Cy Young runner-up has defeated Houston more than any other opponent, going 9-1 with a 1.56 ERA in this series. Wainwright has thrown eight scoreless innings in each of his last three meetings with the Astros, going 3-0 while limiting them to a .185 average. He's made things especially difficult on veteran slugger Carlos Lee, limiting him to one hit in 26 career at-bats. However, Wainwright now must face a surging Astros team. Houston, which has outscored opponents 31-13 during its five-game winning streak, hasn't won six in a row since a seven-game run July 27-Aug. 3, 2010.
One night after defeating the Cardinals 5-4 in the series opener, the Astros prevailed 8-2 on Saturday. Third baseman Chris Johnson went 2 for 4 with his first career grand slam while Bud Norris allowed one unearned run over six innings. Following Norris in the rotation is J.A. Happ (2-1, 4.60), coming off his fourth quality start in five outings this season. He yielded three runs while scattering six hits and three walks over 6 1-3 innings of Tuesday's 6-3 victory over the New York Mets. The left-hander is 1-6 with a 6.44 lifetime ERA against the Cardinals - his highest ERA against any team he's faced more than twice. He lost all four of his starts against St. Louis last season. Astros outfielder Jordan Schafer, who did not play Saturday, could get a chance to extend his streak of reaching base safely in 25 straight games - tied with Denis Menke for the longest in franchise history to open a season.
We get a bargain of a price so far in a series where the numbers have proved for runs to be plentiful. The Cardinals are hitting .283 collectively and even in the post Pujols era that has proven to be tops in the NL averaging about 5 rpg. Carlos Beltran (.272 7 19) leads the team in HR while last season's WS hero David Frese (.315 6 24) has simply picked up where he left off. Going to be tough for Norris to retire a balanced lineup like the Cardinals possess. On the other hand, Wainwright will be facing an Astros lineup that while may not possess much power, are finding their stride with timely hits in good situations. Ked Lowrie is hitting .338 with 4 HR and JD Martinez leads the team in RBI with 20. Best of luck however you play!