St. Louis (45-40) at Houston (35-51)

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  • Game info: 8:05 pm EDT Fri Jul 9, 2010
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The St. Louis Cardinals were swept this week for just the third time in the first half, but they’ll feel good about their chances of stopping their slide when Adam Wainwright(notes) takes the mound.

The Houston Astros should feel great about continuing their winning streak by handing the ball to Bud Norris(notes).

Two pitchers who have had their opponents’ number square off Friday night at Minute Maid Park, where Wainwright looks to sustain his dominance of the Astros while Norris tries to extend his inexplicable success against St. Louis.

The Astros (35-51) have won four of six from the Cardinals this season - all at Busch Stadium - and swept St. Louis (45-40) during a three-game set May 11-13.

In that series, though, Houston didn’t have to face Wainwright (12-5, 2.24 ERA). The right-hander, second in the NL in wins, is 8-1 with a 1.54 ERA in 10 starts against the Astros.

Much of that success stems from his dominance of two of Houston’s biggest bats. Lance Berkman(notes) - who has five homers in his past four games - is 6 for 25 (.240) with nine strikeouts against Wainwright, while Carlos Lee(notes) is 1 for 23.

Wainwright has stifled more than a few hitters lately. After tossing six innings in an 8-0 win over Arizona on June 29, Wainwright went the distance and struck out nine in a 7-1 victory over Milwaukee on Sunday - the same day he learned he made his first All-Star team.

“I think that shows you his powers of concentration,” manager Tony La Russa said. “That could be distracting. It’s a big day, but he had a job to do and zeroed in.”

Norris (2-5, 5.98) has certainly been zeroed in against the Cardinals. The right-hander is 8-8 with a 5.25 ERA in his career, but he’s 4-0 with a 0.35 ERA in four starts versus St. Louis.

He went eight innings and gave up one run while striking out eight in a 4-1 win May 13.

“He’s got two pitches, and they were effective against us the last three or four times,” second baseman Skip Schumaker(notes) told the Cardinals’ official website. “We haven’t been able to figure him out. He’s out there with a lot of confidence, and that’s why he’s beaten us.”

Yadier Molina(notes) (4 for 8) and Ryan Ludwick(notes) (4 for 9) have had some success against Norris, but Albert Pujols(notes) - who jokingly referred to him as “Chuck Norris” - is 2 for 11.

Houston got an impressive performance Thursday from the pitcher who has been its ace for years. Roy Oswalt(notes) pitched a one-hitter and Berkman’s homers provided the offense in a 2-0 victory over Pittsburgh, helping the Astros complete a three-game sweep.

The Cardinals ran up against Colorado’s ace Thursday afternoon to cap a disappointing series. St. Louis blew a six-run lead in the ninth inning Tuesday at Coors Field and a five-run cushion Wednesday before being silenced by Ubaldo Jimenez(notes) in a 4-2 loss in the finale.

The Astros have won seven of nine against the Cardinals at Minute Maid Park.

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Starting Pitchers

A. Wainwright StL vs. B. Norris Bal
20-11 Record 9-10
2.42 ERA 4.92
213 K 158
56 BB 77
1.05 WHIP 1.48

Scoreboard

Friday, Jul 9