With the Cardinals leading the Dodgers and Brewers by 3 1/2 games for the second NL Wild Card berth, the Astros are reveling at the chance to play the role of spoiler Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park and do their best to ruin their division foe's chances of making the playoffs.
"Now that they're in the race, it'd be fun to knock them out," Houston interim manager Tony DeFrancesco said. "It's a challenge and I'm up for a challenge."
Although the Cardinals took Round 1 of that challenge in Monday's series opener, the Astros hope to bounce back Tuesday night against St. Louis lefty Jaime Garcia.
Garcia has struggled on the road, where he boasts a 5.67 ERA in 10 starts compared with a 2.83 ERA at home. To try to curb that issue, the Cardinals recently tweaked Garcia's schedule to minimize his road starts, but the team's current six-game road trip meant the lefty was needed to start a game away from Busch Stadium.
Garcia has had a particularly tough time at Minute Maid Park this year, going 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA (12 earned runs in eight innings) -- his worst ERA at any stadium this season.
In addition to watching the game on MLB.TV, fans can listen in to a free, national broadcast on MLB Radio.
The Astros, meanwhile, will hand the ball to rookie Lucas Harrell. The right-hander ranks third among rookies in innings pitched (182 2/3), and his 2.26 ERA at home ranks fourth in the NL. He has made four starts against the Cardinals, including his most recent outing -- 5 2/3 innings and three runs on Sept. 19 in St. Louis.
The way the schedule played out, the Astros are using the same three starters against the Cardinals this series as they did last week in St. Louis.
"I don't think anyone really has an edge going into it," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of seeing the same arms. "You just make the adjustments. Their starting pitching did a pretty good job with us, not letting them get too much on us. ... We know these guys have the ability. It's just a matter of whether we can make the adjustments and do a little more."
Cardinals: Freese day to day with ankle injury
Third baseman David Freese had to be scratched from the lineup late Monday after he rolled his ankle just before first pitch.
The injury occurred too close to the start of the game for Matheny to adjust his starting lineup, so Freese technically got the start before Matt Carpenter took over at the hot corner in the bottom of the first.
A Cardinals spokesperson labeled Freese's status as day to day. Freese has a history of ankle injuries and missed a game earlier this month due to a sprained ankle, though he has remained mostly healthy this season.
Astros: Martinez to undergo hand surgery
Outfielder J.D. Martinez will have surgery Wednesday to repair a small fracture in the hamate bone in his left hand and will miss the remainder of the season.
"It's been bothering him for a while," DeFrancesco said. "They finally shut him down."
Martinez's hand has been a nagging problem all season, but ice treatment usually caused the pain to subside, so hesaid he didn't think much of it. Recently, however, the pain got worse and Martinez saw doctors, who determined surgery would be the best course of action. Doctors said Martinez will need four to six weeks to recover, which could jeopardize his chances of playing winter ball.
The Astros are 0-7 against the Cardinals since DeFrancesco took over as interim manager on Aug. 19.