After paying their final respects to a fallen teammate, the St. Louis Cardinals head for home and will try to get back to winning games.
Looking to snap a season-high five-game skid, the Cardinals meet the Houston Astros on Friday night in the start of a three-game set at Busch Stadium.
It’s the Cardinals’ first home game since 29-year-old reliever Josh Hancock was killed in an auto accident early Sunday morning in St. Louis. The team was among an estimated 500 mourners who attended a memorial service for Hancock in Tupelo, Miss., on Thursday.
“Every day, I was reminded of his heart,” said Randy Flores, the only teammate to speak at the service. “Josh loved being a baseball player.”
On the field, the last-place Cardinals (10-16) are a major-league worst 3-9 at home. They’ve also been outscored 36-7 during the skid and are tied with Washington for the fewest runs in the majors with 84, but will not use Hancock’s death as an excuse for their poor play.
“That’s obviously always going to be in the back of your mind the rest of the year,” outfielder Skip Schumaker said. “But once you step on the field, I think we’ve got to move on from that - not put it past us, but we’ve got to compete when we’re on the field.”
Albert Pujols had three of St. Louis’ five hits in a 4-0 loss at Milwaukee on Wednesday. He’s batting .405 (17-for-42) during an 11-game hitting streak, and is hitting .280 this season.
“Everybody knows the organization, we pull through,” said Pujols, who is hitting .314 lifetime against the Astros, but is 2-for-12 with a homer in three games versus them this season. “I think the best thing is, you have a great group of guys here. It’s not like you’ve got guys who don’t care about what we’re going through.”
Adam Wainwright (1-2, 6.14 ERA ) will take the mound for the Cardinals. Wainwright is winless in four starts after beating Houston in his season debut on April 6, a series in which the Cardinals took two of three.
The right-hander allowed six runs - all in the fifth inning - and seven hits in 4 1-3 innings of an 8-1 loss to Chicago on Saturday.
“There is some stuff that he can identify that’s going to make him tougher and improve,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa told the team’s official Web site. “He was doing it better early in the game and then he got away from it that one inning. He’s going to be fine. He’s a keeper.”
Houston (12-15), though, will look for a second straight win after Luke Scott’s two-run double in the eighth helped the Astros to a 7-5 comeback win against Cincinnati on Thursday. Houston had lost nine of 10 before winning two straight.
“The way we have not been scoring a lot of runs lately, to lose a lead and then to be able to come back again was a good confidence boost for us,” Houston’s Craig Biggio said.
Carlos Lee went 3-for-4 for the second straight night after he had three total hits in his previous five games.
Chris Sampson (3-1, 3.55) will try for another solid outing for the Astros. The right-hander allowed one run and five hits in 6 1-3 innings of Houston’s 10-1 win over Milwaukee on Saturday.
“When he throws well, he’s got short, late movement on his sinker and slider both. And the movements of those two pitches go in opposite directions, which makes it very difficult for a hitter,” catcher Brad Ausmus said of Sampson.
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