Houston (13-16) at St. Louis (11-17)

Fair Currently: St. Louis, MO
Temp: 90° F
  • Game info: 2:15 pm EDT Sun May 6, 2007
  • TV: FSSW, KSDK
Preview | Box Score | Recap

One big game doesn’t solve the Houston Astros’ offensive problems. It is, however, a good sign for their immediate future.

The Astros look to win their second straight series as they close a three-game set against the struggling St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday.

Generating offense has been an issue all season for Houston (13-16), which entered Saturday 13th in the NL in runs (113), tied for 11th in homers (20) and 10th in batting average (.251).

The Astros had scored three runs or fewer in eight of 10 games before erupting for a season high in a 13-0 win over the Cardinals (11-17) on Saturday.

Mark Loretta had his second four-hit game of the season and rookie Hunter Pence hit a grand slam for his first career homer. It was Houston’s third win in four games after losing eight of nine.

Rookie Matt Albers, pitching on three days’ rest, allowed three hits over 7 1-3 innings for his first major league win.

“He really set the tone,” Loretta said. “He was mowing them down. They were taking some swings you don’t usually see them take.”

Houston’s Chris Sampson (3-1, 3.55 ERA) makes his fifth start of the season, two days after he was originally scheduled to go. Sampson, who has never faced the Cardinals, was scratched Friday after spending the previous night in the hospital with a severe sinus infection.

The right-hander hopes the extra days off won’t have any adverse effects after he limited Milwaukee to one run and five hits over 6 1-3 innings with a career-high eight strikeouts in a 10-1 victory on April 28. That came after he was reached for seven runs and 14 hits in an 11-4 loss at Philadelphia five days earlier.

Last-place St. Louis has been outscored 51-10 while losing six of its last seven games. The Cardinals have allowed six or more runs 12 times in their first 28 games and have already been shut out four times.

Their 11-17 record is the franchise’s worst since an identical start in 1990.

Poor starting pitching continues to be a problem for St. Louis. Kip Wells allowed seven runs in 4 1-3 innings Saturday, raising the starters’ ERA to 5.26.

“When things aren’t going good, it just seems to snowball,” Wells said. “It’s something you have to overcome.”

Starting pitching, though, isn’t the only area where the Cardinals are struggling. Two of the team’s best hitters - Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds - are in a combined 0-for-35 slump.

The Cardinals got some more bad news Saturday when they learned ace Chris Carpenter will undergo arthroscopic surgery early next week after suffering a setback in his rehab program. Carpenter, a 15-game winner last year and the NL Cy Young Award winner in 2005, will miss at least three months.

“When he was making progress, it was exciting, the impact he would make on our club,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “It’s a tough break, but it’s not a break that beats you, not unless you allow it to.”

Braden Looper (3-2, 2.84) has been the Cardinals’ most effective starter despite struggling in his most recent outing. The converted reliever allowed six runs and 11 hits in five-plus innings Tuesday in a 12-2 loss at Milwaukee. He had surrendered only seven runs in his first five starts, spanning 33 innings.

This will be the first career start for Looper against the Astros. He is 4-2 with four saves and a 2.14 ERA in 30 relief appearances against them.

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Starting Pitchers

C. Sampson Mia vs. B. Looper ChC
7-8 Record 12-12
4.59 ERA 4.94
51 K 87
30 BB 51
1.38 WHIP 1.34

Scoreboard

Sunday, May 6