St. Louis Cardinals (81-71) at Houston Astros (49-102)
Tuesday, September 25 - 8:05 PM EST
Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas
The St. Louis Cardinals appeared on the verge of surrendering the second wild card after losing five of six earlier this month, but they have exploited a pair of bedraggled division rivals to solidify their position and move closer to a postseason berth. St. Louis has won three straight and seven of eight to open a 3 1/2-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers in the wild card chase. Four of the wins have come against the Houston Astros.
The Cardinals drubbed the Astros 6-1 in Monday's series opener, their ninth consecutive victory over Houston. St. Louis has limited the Astros to one run or fewer in three of the four meetings over the past seven days. The Astros weren't helped by the fact that All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve (groin) and third baseman Matt Dominguez (stomach virus) sat out the series opener - their 104th loss of the year.
TV: 8:05 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Midwest (St. Louis), Fox Sports Houston
PITCHING MATCHUP: Cardinals LH Jaime Garcia (5-7, 4.25 ERA) vs. Astros RH Lucas Harrell (10-10, 3.89)
Garcia beat the Astros for the first time in eight career starts last time out, limiting them to three runs on six hits in six innings. He has turned in solid starts in three of his last four outings but will be looking to reverse a poor history both away from home and against Houston. Garcia is 2-5 with a 5.67 ERA in 10 road starts and is 1-5 with a 7.55 ERA in eight career starts against the Astros.
Harrell's winless streak extended to six starts when he lost to the Cardinals on Wednesday, giving up three runs - all on homers - and five hits in 5 2/3 innings. Still, the fact the he doesn't have a losing record on a team that is more than 50 games under .500 speaks volumes to the season compiled by Harrell. He has given up more than three earned runs only once in his last 13 starts.
1. With SS Rafael Furcal (elbow) ruled out for the rest of the season, his replacement, rookie Pete Kozma, has hit his first two homers of the year in back-to-back games.
2. Houston has been outscored 62-17 by St. Louis during the stretch of nine straight losses.
3. Cardinals closer Jason Motte was named National League Player of the Week after earning five saves in a six-game stretch.