St. Louis (80-72) at Houston (75-78)

Light Rain with Thunder Currently: Houston, TX
Temp: 76° F
  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Sat Sep 23, 2006
  • TV: KPLR, KNWS
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The defending National League champion Houston Astros aren’t going down easily.

Houston looks to win a third straight game over the NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals when the division rivals continue their four-game set Saturday at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros (75-78) have won the first two games of this series—by identical 6-5 scores—to move within 5 1/2 games of St. Louis (80-72) in the NL Central with nine games to play for Houston and 10 remaining for the Cardinals.

Houston and the Cincinnati Reds are tied for second place in the division. The clubs also trail the Los Angeles Dodgers by 5 1/2 games in the wild-card race.

“We’re taking this opportunity and we’re going to do something with it,” Astros manager Phil Garner said. “We have something to play for. Thank goodness, we’ve got something to play for.”

St. Louis has lost four of five games, and its magic number for clinching a third straight division title remains five.

The Astros have won three straight meetings with St. Louis after losing seven of the first 11 matchups this season.

The Cards failed to hold a lead for the second straight game Friday as Braden Looper gave up a game-tying RBI double to Orlando Palmeiro in the ninth inning before Astros second baseman Craig Biggio delivered a run-scoring single to complete the rally for a 6-5 victory.

Six of Palmeiro’s 11 RBIs have come against the Cardinals this season.

Biggio went 3-for-5—his first three-hit game since July 27—to brighten what has been a dismal September for the veteran. Biggio is hitting .161 (10-for-62) for the month.

“Sometimes you come through, sometimes you don’t,” Biggio said. “When you get your mind-set right, you can come up with big hits.”

Roy Oswalt (14-8, 3.05 ERA) takes the mound for the Astros Saturday looking to extend his five-game winning streak

Oswalt is 5-0 in six starts since his last loss, Aug. 14 to the Chicago Cubs.

The right-hander is 7-5 with a 3.30 career ERA against the Cardinals. He defeated St. Louis on Sept. 13, allowing one run and seven hits in 8 1-3 innings.

Oswalt then recorded his fifth straight win Monday against the Cincinnati Reds. He allowed two runs in 6 2-3 innings and struck out eight before departing with muscle a spasm in his neck.

“It’s no big deal,” Oswalt said. “I got a little too far out on a curveball in the third inning when it first happened. I felt better and better after that but in the sixth I threw another curve and it tightened up again. I don’t think I’ll miss any time with it.”

Cardinals right-hander Anthony Reyes (5-7, 4.92) will oppose Oswalt.

Reyes struck out nine batters for the second time in his last three starts on Monday, when he gave up two runs over 5 1-3 innings, but did not receive a decision in a 4-3 defeat at Milwaukee.

He did not record a decision in either of his two other starts versus Houston this season, allowing seven runs and 10 hits in 11 1-3 innings while striking out 11.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Marquis SD vs. R. Oswalt Col
14-16 Record 15-8
6.02 ERA 2.98
96 K 166
75 BB 38
1.52 WHIP 1.17

Scoreboard

Saturday, Sep 23