They’ll look to do the same against a pitcher whose ERA is among the team’s worst when the teams resume their series on Friday.
The Astros (74-78) scored all their runs off Chris Carpenter in a 6-5 win on Thursday. Carpenter, the 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner who was 15-6 with a 2.79 ERA entering the game, gave up a pair of two-run homers to Lance Berkman— including the eventual game-winner in the eighth.
“When you have one of the best pitchers in the game, and you score five runs, sometimes you say it’s enough,” said St. Louis’ Albert Pujols, who drove in a run and was 1-for-3. “Obviously, it wasn’t.”
The Cardinals have lost three of four and their magic number to clinch the division remained five. Houston has won three of four to pull within 5 1/2 games of St. Louis.
“These games are fun,” Berkman said. “If we can keep that glimmer of hope alive, you love to play in games like this.”
After Carpenter’s disappointing performance, the Cardinals (80-71) send Jason Marquis (14-15, 5.82 ERA) to the mound. The right-hander needs a win to match Carpenter for the team lead, but his ERA is the highest among the starting staff.
Marquis is 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA in his last three starts, but he’s received no runs of support while pitching 15 innings in that span. On Sept. 13 against Houston, he lasted just one inning and allowed four runs and five hits with two walks.
“I felt fine, I warmed up fine,” said Marquis, who was pitching on only three days rest. “It just didn’t translate and carry over to the game.”
Only six pitchers in major league history have ended the season with at least 14 wins and a higher ERA than Marquis. Colorado’s Shawn Estes was the last to do so, going 15-8 with a 5.84 ERA in 2004.
Marquis said he can’t figure out the cause of his inconsistency this season.
“Physically, obviously, I feel fine,” said Marquis. “Mechanically, I’ve got some problems. I’ve been battling mechanical problems all year.”
Marquis is 7-4 with a 4.88 ERA in 18 appearances—including 13 starts— against the Astros. He is 2-2 with a 5.06 ERA in four starts against them this season.
Rookie Jason Hirsh (3-4, 5.59) also will try to overcome inconsistency. He’s alternated losses and wins in all seven of his starts since being called up from Triple-A Round Rock on Aug. 12.
The right-hander allowed two runs and four hits in six innings on Saturday in a 7-2 home loss to Philadelphia. Hirsh, who had held the Phillies hitless through five, is 0-3 with a 3.94 ERA at Minute Maid Park but has gotten only one run of support in 16 innings.
Berkman, who’s already set a career high with 43 homers, needs three RBIs to set a new single-season career best—he had 128 RBIs in 2002.
Berkman is hitting .520 (13-for-25) with three doubles, a homer and nine RBIs against Marquis.