Cardinals vs. Astros Preview and Pick

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St. Louis Cardinals vs. Houston Astros Preview and Pick ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>

Cardinals (17-11) -125, o/u 7 ½ at Astros (18-9), 8 p.m. Eastern, ESPN 2
by Staff

The Houston Astros shoot for a sweep of a quick two-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals when the two teams clash Thursday night at Minute Maid Park.

Houston has won two games in a row after beating St. Louis in the first game of this series 5-4 Wednesday night. The Cardinals, on the other hand, have lost three games in a row, scoring just seven runs total in that span.

The Astros are in second place in the National League Central, a half-game back of division-leading Cincinnati. St. Louis sits in third place in the division, two games out of first.

The Cardinals won the regular-season series with Houston last year 9 games to 4, with the over/under going 5-8. But the Astros beat St. Louis in the NL Championship Series 4 games to 2.

The Cardinals are 5-7 on the road this season, 17-9 as favorites and 13-15 vs. the run line.

Houston is 13-4 at home this season, 4-2 as underdogs but just 10-17 vs. the run line.

St. Louis sends Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter (3-1, 1.80 ERA, 1.08 WHIP) to the mound Thursday. Carpenter has been sharp again this season, giving up just four runs in his last five starts, covering 35 innings pitched. The Cardinals are 4-2 in games Carpenter has started this year, the o/u 2-4.

Including the playoffs, Carpenter made seven starts vs. Houston last year. He gave up 13 ER and 55 baserunners in 54 IP. Carpenter also went 3-0 with a 1.13 ERA at Minute Maid Park in 2005, and St. Louis is 7-1 in Carpenter’s last eight starts vs. the Astros.

But St. Louis is just 6-13 in their last 19 games in Houston.

Andy Pettitte (1-4, 5.25 ERA, 1.67 WHIP) goes to the mound for the Astros Thursday. Despite his rather alarming ERA and WHIP, Pettitte has made four quality starts (out of six) so far this year. But Houston is just 1-5 in those starts, the o/u 2-2.

In his most recent outing, Pettitte gave up six runs and 11 hits in 5 IP Saturday vs. Cincinnati.

Pettitte made five starts vs. St. Louis last year (including playoffs), allowing 10 ER and 35 baserunners in 32 1/3 IP.

The St. Louis offense, led of course by Albert Pujols and his 15 home runs, owns a .338 team OBP and is averaging 4.7 runs per game.

Houston hitters own a .353 team OBP, 7th-best in the majors, and are averaging 5.2 RPG.

The Cardinals bullpen has been solid this year, with a 2.62 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. In their last 12 2/3 IP, St. Louis relievers have given up just 1 ER and 17 baserunners.

The Astros pen, on the other hand, owns an ugly 5.96 ERA and a 1.59 WHIP. In their last 10 2/3 IP, Houston relievers have allowed 4 ER and 12 baserunners.

James Hoye, Thursday’s projected home-plate umpire, has called three games behind the plate this year, with the o/u going 2-1.

The o/u at Minute Maid Park this year is 9-6.

St. Louis 3B Scott Rolen could return to action Thursday after missing nine games with bronchitis. And Pujols missed a game earlier this week with a stiff back. Media reports have Pujols himself saying he’s about 75%.

The over is 13-10 in Astros games this year, 13-15 in Cardinals games.

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The Ultimatecapper Pick: This one is a no brainer. Pettite has looked like crap. Carpenter may be the best starting pitcher in the game today. Take the Cardinals and if the juice scares you lay the run and a half, it’s likely to be a winner.

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