Chris Carpenter(notes) appears particularly comfortable pitching at Busch Stadium. Unfortunately for the struggling St. Louis Cardinals, Bud Norris(notes) of the Houston Astros seems to have some confidence there, too.
In danger of being swept for the first time this season, the Cardinals hope Carpenter can remain undefeated at home, and help them beat Norris and the Astros on Thursday in what could turn into a pitcher’s duel.
St. Louis (20-14) had won 10 of 13 at home prior to this three-game series, but last-place Houston apparently wasn’t intimidated. The Astros won 6-3 Tuesday night, then came within one run of matching a season high with a 9-6 victory the following evening.
It’s Houston’s first series win at Busch, which opened in 2006.
Poor defense has contributed to St. Louis allowing nine unearned runs in this series. Shortstop Brendan Ryan(notes), a mainstay in the lineup due to his defense, has made two errors in each of his last two games after committing three in his first 29 contests.
“I just know he’s a really good defensive player,” manager Tony La Russa said. “This happens, hang with it.”
Cardinals pitchers have a major league-best 1.97 ERA at home, and Carpenter (4-0, 2.80 ERA) has posted a 0.90 ERA in winning each of his three starts in St. Louis.
The right-hander has 47 strikeouts in 45 innings in seven starts overall. He gave up two runs and struck out eight in seven innings against Pittsburgh on Friday, but didn’t earn the win in St. Louis’ 4-3 victory.
Carpenter is 6-3 with a 2.72 ERA and five complete games in 14 starts against the Astros.
Norris (1-4, 7.52) hasn’t had nearly as much success as Carpenter, but he has been at his best versus St. Louis. Norris has limited the Cardinals to an unearned run while winning each of his three starts against them, including two on the road.
That includes a matchup on April 15 at Busch Stadium, where the right-hander struck out nine in five scoreless innings of a 5-1 Astros victory. St. Louis sluggers Albert Pujols(notes) and Matt Holliday(notes) are a combined 3 for 17 against the right-hander.
Norris has otherwise struggled this season, posting a 10.54 ERA while losing his last three starts. He surrendered five runs in four innings of a 7-0 loss to San Diego on Friday.
The Astros, who are last in the NL with a .226 batting average, have given Norris six runs to work with in his six outings, but they have plated 19 during a three-game winning streak. Houston (12-21) is 11-3 when scoring four runs or more.
“Anytime you can score runs early and let your guy relax a little bit, that’s good,” said Berkman, who’s batting .209 with four homers and 10 RBIs in 20 games.