Cardinals-Astros Preview

The Associated Press

After struggling in his first game back from the disabled list, the St. Louis Cardinals' Jake Westbrook returned to his dominant form last time out.

The Cardinals could use another strong outing from the right-hander after getting swept over the weekend, and he'll try to provide that in the club's first interleague matchup with the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.

Westbrook (3-2, 1.76 ERA) gave up five runs over five innings in a 5-4 loss in Miami on June 14 in his first start since dealing with inflammation in his elbow. He bounced back Wednesday by yielding an unearned run and two hits in seven innings of a 4-1 victory against the Chicago Cubs.

"I felt good," Westbrook said. "I was throwing a really good sinker, tonight. I was locating it a lot better than the last start."

St. Louis (47-29) is hoping that Westbrook can continue to pitch well after it lost three games against Texas in a rematch of the 2011 World Series. While they own the best record in the majors, the Cardinals are one game ahead of Pittsburgh in the NL Central.

They'll try to avoid a season-high fourth consecutive loss in a matchup against the Astros, who own the AL's worst record at 29-48.

Houston has won seven of 11 but dropped two of three to the Cubs this past weekend, falling 14-6 on Sunday.

Lucas Harrell (5-7, 4.32) will try to help his club bounce back and earn its seventh win in 10 home games by adding to his solid month. The right-hander is 1-1 with a 1.73 ERA in four June starts after going 1-4 with a 7.53 ERA in May.

Harrell has issued four walks in 26 innings this month and had none Thursday against Milwaukee. He walked 21 in six starts in May.

"I'm back to getting my mechanics like they were last year (when he won a team-best 11 games)," Harrell told the Astros' official website. "I was inconsistent early in the year, but now I haven't been walking anybody."

Harrell gave up four runs - one earned - over 5 1-3 innings against the Brewers as Houston rallied for a 7-4 victory in 10 innings.

Harrell has lost his last three starts against St. Louis but has received zero runs of support. He's given up three runs or fewer in each of his last two matchups and allowed two in the most recent one Sept. 25 in Houston.

Harrell, though, didn't help himself by walking six in a 4-0 defeat.

Westbrook has won three straight decisions against Houston despite giving up five runs in each of his last two meetings.

St. Louis produced a 10-game win streak against the 107-loss Astros in 2012 that was snapped with a 2-0 defeat in Houston on Sept. 26, the most recent meeting between the clubs.

Yadier Molina batted .469 (15 for 32) with two homers and seven RBIs in his final 10 games against Houston last season. The catcher is 7 for 12 with a home run versus Harrell.

Jose Altuve, batting .376 against St. Louis, is 3 for 7 when facing Westbrook.

The Cardinals haven't dropped four in a row since Aug. 28-31.

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