Cardinals Vs. Astros: St. Louis Finishes Sweep of Houston

The Cardinals extended their wild card lead to 2.5 games with a Thursday afternoon win over the Astros.

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N.L. Wild Card Standings: Cardinals Maintain 2.5-Game Wild Card Lead

The St. Louis Cardinals' 5-4 win over Houston Thursday maintained the team's 2.5-game Wild Card lead over the surging Milwaukee Brewers. The Cardinals, who have now won four games in a row, will now travel to Chicago for a three-game set with the rival Cubs. The team follows that series with 3 at Houston, followed by a pair of home series against the Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds.

Despite winning four games in a row and sweeping the Astros in the process, the Cardinals have been unable to extend their lead, due to the fact that Milwaukee has won its last five games. The Brewers have stormed back into the race by winning 8 of their last 9 games and posting a 14-4 record in September. Milwaukee's stretch run is much more difficult than that of the Cardinals. The Brewers will play their next six contests on the road at the NL East-leading Nationals and NL Centra-leading Reds before returning home to close out the season against Houston and San Diego.

Los Angeles, who entered last week's four-game set with the Cardinals in the thick of the race, have faded slightly. The Dodgers have won just 3 of their last 10 games and are 7-10 in September, falling 3 games back of St. Louis with a loss to Washington Thursday. Los Angeles also faces two division leaders in its final 12 games, playing a three-game series at Cincinnati this weekend before closing against San Diego, Colorado, and San Francisco.

Philadelphia's late run has sputtered following a disappointing series in Houston, where the Phillies lost 3 of 4 games to the hapless Astros. The team came back to take three games from the Mets this week, capping their sweep with a 16-1 win Thursday. However, the team remains 4.5 games back with just 12 to play. Furthermore, Philadelphia faces the most difficult schedule of all the contenders, with two series against Washington and another versus Atlanta still on the calendar.

Pittsburgh's sweep at the hands of Milwaukee this week left them 5.5 games behind the pace and effectively eliminated from the race. The same goes for Arizona, whose 6-5 loss to San Diego Thursday dropped them one game below .500 and 5.5 games behind the Cardinals.

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Cardinals Vs. Astros Final Score: St. Louis Finishes Sweep of Houston With 5-4 Win

The St. Louis Cardinals finished a three-game sweep of the Houston Astros with a 5-4 win Thursday afternoon. The Cardinals took an early lead when Allen Craig homered to center field in the bottom of the first, giving St. Louis a 3-1 advantage. Houston scored two runs in the third to tie the score, but a Carlos Beltran double in the sixth brought home two runs and restored the two-run lead. A seventh-inning RBI single by Brandon Barnes was all Houston could muster against the Cardinal bullpen.

St. Louis starter Jaime Garcia got the win after giving up three runs on six hits over six innings of work. The win takes Garcia to 5-7 on the year. Jason Motte got his 38th save of the season after a scoreless ninth inning. Bud Norris got the loss for Houston, falling to 5-13 on the season.

The win extends the Cardinals' wild card lead to 2½ games with 12 games to play. St. Louis next heads to Wrigley Field for a three-game series with the Cubs starting Friday afternoon.

Additional coverage on the Cardinals can be found at Viva El Birdos. For more on the Astros, be sure to visit The Crawfish Boxes. Baseball Nation is the place to go for news and analysis from around the league.

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Lance Berkman Ambivalent About DHing For 2013 Houston Astros

The idea of a physically limited but still powerful Lance Berkman returning to the Houston Astros as a designated hitter during the team's first season in the American League in 2013 would seem to make a lot of sense. It just doesn't sit right with Berkman himself.

The injured St. Louis Cardinals first baseman told stltoday.com the idea doesn't interest him.

"Not really. Obviously, that's been talked about. I'm not ruling anything out. But, as it sits today, it's not something that I'm super-interested (in)," Berkman told reporters. "I wouldn't want to just limp around as a DH. If I can't get the thing back pretty close to where it's 100 percent, I'm not going to fool with it."

Berkman still has a home in Houston. He's out for the season for the Cardinals, and hasn't said what his plans, if any, are for next year.

For more on the Cardinals, visit Viva El Birdos. Head to Baseball Nation for all MLB news and commentary, as well as SB Nation's YouTube channel:

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Astros Vs. Cardinals: Game Time, TV Schedule And More

A night after clinching the series win, the St. Louis Cardinals will look to sweep the Houston Astros out of Busch Stadium on Thursday afternoon.

Jaime Garcia (4-7, 4.24 ERA) starts on the mound for the Cardinals after going six solid innings and allowing only three hits and two runs in a close 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sept. 15.

Houston will counter with right-hander Bud Norris (5-12, 4.93 ERA) on the hill. Norris missed his last scheduled start due to a blister on his right hand. He last pitched on Sept. 8, surrendering five runs on six hits in a 5-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

The Cardinals currently sit a full two games ahead of the Dodgers in the National League Wild Card standings and 2½ games atop the surging Milwaukee Brewers.

St. Louis shut the Astros out on Wednesday night, 5-0, behind a strong outing from Lance Lynn, who won his sixteenth game of the season.

First pitch is set for 12:45 p.m. CT and will be televised on Fox Sports Midwest.

For more on the Astros, be sure to visit The Crawfish Boxes. Additional coverage on the Cardinals can be found at Viva El Birdos, while Baseball Nation is the place to go for news and analysis from around the league.

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Cardinals Vs. Astros Game Recap: Cardinals Blank Houston, 5-0

A pair of home runs catapulted the St. Louis Cardinals to a 5-0 victory over the Houston Astros on Wednesday night in St. Louis, as the Cardinals maintained their two-game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers for the second NL wild card spot.

Cardinals third baseman David Freese hit a two-run home run in the second inning, his 20th of the year, for a 2-0 lead. In the fourth, Astros pitcher Lucas Harrell (10-10) surrendered another homer to Yadier Molina. His blast to center field was also his 20th of the season. The Cardinals later added two runs in the eighth.

Harrell struck out seven and only gave up those three runs in nearly six innings of work, but Cardinals pitching silenced Harrell's teammates at the plate. Lance Lynn (16-7) picked up the win with 6 scoreless innings, striking out five and giving up just three hits on the outing. Cardinals relievers held the Astros to two hits rest of the way.

The Cardinals (79-70) finish the series with the Astros (48-101) tomorrow in an afternoon outing. Jaime Garcia (4-7, 4.24 ERA) will pitch for the Saint Louis. Houston's Bud Norris (5-12, 4.93) is slated to start but is dealing with flu-like symptoms that may scratch him from the lineup.

For more on the Cardinals, visit Viva El Birdos. Head to Baseball Nation for all MLB news and commentary, as well as SB Nation's YouTube channel:

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Astros Vs. Cardinals Lineups: Lance Lynn Looks To Continue Rolling

Lance Lynn will take the ball for the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday as they shoot for a series victory over the Houston Astros. Lynn is making his second start since being moved back into the rotation.

In his last start, Lynn (15-7, 3.95 ERA) allowed one run on five hits in six innings while striking out seven batters. That came after a two and a half week stint in the bullpen in which he allowed five earned runs in seven innings while making six appearances.

Here are the full lineups:

Astros

1. Jose Altuve 2B
2. Scott Moore LF
3. Brett Wallace 1B
4. Justin Maxwell CF
5. Jed Lowrie SS
6. Brandon Laird 3B
7. Chris Snyder C
8. Jimmy Paredes RF
9. Lucas Harrell P

Cardinals

1. Jon Jay CF
2. Carlos Beltran RF
3. Matt Holliday LF
4. Allen Craig 1B
5. Yadier Molina C
6. David Freese 3B
7. Skip Schumaker 2B
8. Pete Kozma SS
9. Lance Lynn P

Lucas Harrell (10-9, 3.86 ERA) will be on the mound for the Astros. First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. CT.

For more on the Astros, be sure to visit The Crawfish Boxes. Additional coverage on the Cardinals can be found at Viva El Birdos, while Baseball Nation is the place to go for news and analysis from around the league.

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2012 MLB Standings: Cardinals Look To Build Wild Card Lead

The Houston Astros might be just what the St. Louis Cardinals need as the Red Birds seek to claim the second and final NL Wild Card spot.

St. Louis topped Houston 4-1 on Tuesday to increase its lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers to 1.5 games. They'll send Lance Lynn to the mound Wednesday night against Houston's Lucas Harrell in hopes of winning their third straight game. The Cardinals (78-70) had lost 13 of their previous 19 games before handing Houston its majors-worst 100th loss Tuesday night.

The Dodgers will look to keep pace on the road against the NL-best Washington Nationals, where they play a doubleheader after getting rained out Tuesday night.

St. Louis is well behind the Atlanta Braves for the top Wild Card spot, which will get the privilege of hosting the one-game Wild Card playoff before the start of the divisional round. After L.A. in 2nd place, the surging Milwaukee Brewers are 2.5 games back while Pittsburgh is 3.5 back and Philadelphia is 4 back.

See SI.com for the complete MLB standings.

Head over to Viva El Birdos for more Cardinals coverage, and check out Baseball Nationfor even more news from around the majors.

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St. Louis Cardinals Continue To Start Pete Kozma At Shortstop

An unlikely name is getting the starts at shortstop recently for the St. Louis Cardinals during their race to the playoffs, 2007 first round pick Pete Kozma. Judging him by his work in AAA, he probably wouldn't be playing for a major league team at all but he has had quite a debut first few games for the Cards.

His career slash line in Memphis has been .223/.286/.324, but Kozma has hit an astounding .310/.333/.517 in 29 big-league at-bats. That included a big three hit game against the San Diego Padres.

Manager Matt Matheny has started giving him the playing time that he has clearly earned with his recent form while replacing Rafael Furcal. He has been something of a spark for the team in their playoff push:

"There's no secret here," Matheny said after the victory Tuesday, "how much we needed someone to step up and take that position right now."

His most recent performance saw him hitting a triple and earning a run against the Astros in the 4-1 win on Tuesday night.

Head over to Viva El Birdos for more Cardinals coverage, and check out Baseball Nation for even more news from around the majors.

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Lance Lynn Remains In Rotation As St. Louis Cardinals Welcome Chris Carpenter Back

Originally removed from the Cardinals' starting staff at the end of August due to poor play, St. Louis right-hander Lance Lynn will remain in the team's rotation and take the mound on Wednesday for a Game 2 outing against the Houston Astros.

The 25-year-old Lynn opened the season as one of the game's hottest players after reeling off a 10-2 record and 2.42 ERA through 13 starts, but quickly hit a rough patch by midseason and proceeded to turn in a number of poor outings following the All-Star break.

Though it was once believed that Lynn, and not rookie Joe Kelly, would be headed to the bullpen to coincide with the return of veteran ace Chris Carpenter on Friday, the organization made it clear that Lynn would get a final shot in the rotation while righty Jake Westbrook remains out with an injury.

Lynn is 15-7 this season with a 3.95 ERA and 157 strikeouts, and appears to have gained the trust of his manager and pitching coach after holding the Dodgers to one run over six innings on Sept. 13. While the team is still hopeful that Westbrook can jump back into his old role at some point next week, Lynn could be huge down the stretch if he's able to recapture his early season magic.

Head over to Viva El Birdos for more Cardinals coverage, and check out Baseball Nation for even more news from around the majors.

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Cardinals Vs. Astros Final Score: St. Louis Downs Houston, 4-1, Increases Wild Card Lead

The St. Louis Cardinals added distance to their lead in the National League Wild Card race and handed the Houston Astros their 100th loss of the season in the process, winning 4-1 at home on Tuesday night.

St. Louis grabbed the early lead thanks to second baseman Daniel Descalso's RBI single in the second inning off of Houston starter Fernando Abad, scoring catcher Yadier Molina.

In the fifth, the Cardinals would chase Abad from the game following St. Louis starting pitcher Kyle Lohse's RBI double and center fielder Jon Jay doubling home Lohse. Abad (L, 0-5) surrendered six hits and three runs in five innings.

Jay added to the St. Louis lead in the seventh, scoring Descalso with a single to right field. Along with the fifth-inning RBI, Lohse (W, 15-3) delivered a quality start on the mound, keeping the Astros at bay by tossing seven scoreless innings and giving up only four hits and two walks while striking out five on 102 pitches.

Jason Motte earned his 36th save of the season, pitching a scoreless ninth.

With the win and postponement of Tuesday night's Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals tilt, the Cardinals increased their separation in the NL Wild Card picture to 1½ games over Los Angeles and 2½ over the Milwaukee Brewers.

For more coverage of the Cardinals, head over to Viva El Birdos while Crawfish Boxes has all the latest on the Astros.

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Cardinals Vs. Astros Lineups: Kyle Lohse Faces Worst Offense In Baseball

The St. Louis Cardinals face the last-place Houston Astros to open a three-game series on Tuesday night. The Astros are a welcome sight for the Cardinals, as they are trying to fend off the Los Angeles Dodgers, and several others, for the final NL Wild Card spot.

Kyle Lohse takes the mound for St. Louis against Fernando Abad for Houston. Lohse's 2.81 ERA is among the league leaders, while Abad in winless is 34 appearances this season and is making just his fifth start.

The standings show the Cardinals just one game ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers heading into Tuesday night. The Dodgers are facing a much tougher test, as they travel across the country to visit the Washington Nationals.

Full lineups:

Cardinals

1. Jon Jay CF

2. Carlos Beltran RF

3. Matt Holliday LF

4. Allen Craig 1B

5. Yadier Molina C

6. David Freese 3B

7. Daniel Descalso 2B

8. Pete Kozma SS

9. Kyle Lohse P

Astros

1. Jose Altuve 2B

2. Scott Moore RF

3. Brett Wallace 1B

4. Justin Maxwell CF

5. Jed Lowrie SS

6. J.D. Martinez LF

7. Jason Castro C

8. Matt Dominguez 3B

9. Fernando Abad P

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Cardinals Vs. Astros: Game Time, TV Schedule And More

St. Louis has a chance to rack up their win count when they begin a three game series with a rebuilding Houston team on Tuesday.

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