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The worst team in baseball a year ago, the Astros have been surprisingly competitive early in the season, with their three-game midweek sweep of the New York Mets the latest piece of evidence. They’ll now attempt to make up some ground on National League Central leader St. Louis, which the highest-scoring offense in the National League. The St. Louis Cardinals still lead the division after a Thursday afternoon loss to Pittsburgh that pulled idle Houston to within five games of first.
A young Houston Astros offense has totaled just 18 homers but still ranks among the National League leaders in runs scored, batting average and on-base percentage. Diminutive 2B Jose Altuve continues to surprise, batting .358. Houston’s lineup, though, still pales in comparison with that of the defending world champions, who lead the major leagues in batting average, on-base percentage and OPS. World Series MVP David Freese has picked up where he left off in October, batting .329 with 24 runs batted in.
Cardinals Astros Betting
When: 8:05 PM ET, Friday, May 4, 2012
Where: Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas
TV: 8:05 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Midwest (St. Louis), Fox Sports Houston (Houston)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Cardinals RH Kyle Lohse (4-0, ERA 1.62) vs. Astros RH Lucas Harrell (1-2, ERA 4.71)
Lohse has been one of the best pitchers in baseball thus far, but he is coming off his most pedestrian outing of the season (6 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 HR, 4 BB, 5 K) against Milwaukee Apr. 28. He has been virtually untouchable otherwise, giving up just three runs in his first four starts (27 1/3 IP). Lohse is 8-7 with a 2.81 ERA in his career against the Astros.
Harrell got off to a strong start in his first full major league season, but he has been smacked around in his last two trips to the mound, giving up 11 runs (10 earned) in 11 innings. He’ll be making his fifth consecutive away start, and the road has not been particularly kind to Harrell so far this season (0-2, 6.23 ERA, .294 opponent BA, 11 BB, 8 K).
1. Houston 1B Carlos Lee is 21-for-70 (.300) against Lohse with five home runs and seven doubles. The rest of the Astros are a combined 8-for-37 (.216).
2. The Cardinals have won the last six games started by Lohse, including his last four on the road, where he is 3-0 with a 1.33 ERA this season.
3. Harrell’s lone prior appearance against St. Louis consisted of one perfect inning of relief last Sept. 28. He has struck out two of the three batters he has faced (3B David Freese and C Yadier Molina).