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Series Preview: Cardinals vs. Astros... the rematch

Licking their wounds from their first losing roadtrip of the season -- a 3-4 excursion to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh -- the Cardinals have a chance to nurse their weak bats back to health at home against the worst team in the National League.

The good news is that the Birds were 2-1 against Houston when they last saw them during their home opening series last month. The bad news is that those Astros were without slugging first baseman Lance Berkman at the time and now he's back. The worse news is that Bud Norris, a crummy pitcher whose major league existence seems to depend on the fact that the Cardinals are the only team on the planet that can't hit him, is scheduled to pitch the third game.

When they left town the first time, the Astros were 1-8. Since then, they're 9-13 and have suffered their second seven-game losing streak of the month old season. Berkman, who subtly sent out the word that he would waive his no-trade clause to be shipped to a contender, isn't getting much attention with his .194 batting average with two homers and seven RBIs. Carlos Lee, without an extended stay on the disabled list as an excuse, is hitting .207 with two homers and 10 batted in. Third baseman Pedro Felizis the only other Houston player with double digits in RBIs, 11. He's hitting .223 for the season.

Catcher Yadier Molinacontinues to swing the hottest bat for the Cardinals. He's upped his average to .301 and has chipped in a team second 22 RBIs. Albert Pujols, the team leader at 25 batted in, is hitting .314 but continues to strike out at an alarming pace. Well, at least for him. He's whiffed 21 times in 142 plate appearances, which puts him on a pace to strike out nearly 100 times. Pujols struck out 93 times his rookie season and never more than 69 since then. Matt Holliday didn't start Sunday because of what is described as a slight groin injury. He got Monday off because of the schedule and is expected to be back in the lineup Tuesday. But I wonder if manager Tony La Russawill hold him out if the weather is as bad as it is predicted to be this week. I'd hate to see Holliday slip and slide himself to a disabled list stay.


Tuesday it's Brett Myers(1-2, 3.60) for the Astros against Brad Penny(3-2, 1.99). Myers has been something of a hard luck starter for the Astros with only one win despite going relatively deep into his starts and holding down a decent ERA. Of course, he won't get much sympathy from Penny who has a sub-2.00 ERA and just slightly than a .500 record thanks to the Cardinals cold bats.

Wednesday features Wandy Rodriguez (1-4, 4.59) against Kyle Lohse(0-2, 5.45). The Cardinals beat up on Rodriguez when the last saw him. He gave up four runs in 4 1/3 innings as the Cardinals collected seven hits and a pair of walks on their way to a 5-0 victory. Lohse seemed like he was about to come out of the funk that has troubled him since about this time last season. But he was terrible the last time he took the mound Thursday against Philadelphia. He gave up nine hits and five runs -- although only three of them were earned -- in a four inning start.

Thursday Bud Norris (1-4, 7.52) takes on Chris Carpenter (4-0, 2.80). Norris is 0-3 since the last time he pitched against St. Louis and lasted only four innings in his last start against San Diego. Carpenter has been getting stronger every outing after a shaky start of the season because of a lack of control.