The Houston Astros are entering an important homestand where they will be playing six divisional games and the first three will be against first place St. Louis Cardinals. The Astros are entering this series losing three out of their last four and what better time to turn it around than against division rivals. Another interesting sub plot of this series is that it will be the first time Lance Berkman will be playing in Minute Maid Park as a visitor. Berkman signed a one year this off-season with the Cardinals and is having a big bounce back year as he is hitting .377 with six home runs and 15 RBI already.
Game 1: Tuesday, April 26th 8:05 PM (ET)
HOU: Bud Norris vs. STL: Jaime Garcia
This will be a battle of two second year pitchers as Norris, who is 1-1 will take on Garcia who is a perfect 3-0 in four games started. Garcia had a good first season as a starter going 13-8 last year with a 2.70 ERA and has gotten even better this season filling part of a void left by the injury of Adam Wainwright. He has improved his ERA to 1.44 and given up a total of four runs over his four starts. On the other side, Bud Norris hasn’t had nearly as much success in his four starts giving up 12 runs for an ERA of 4.91 but has improved significantly over his last two starts giving up only three runs over 12 innings pitched.
Game 2: Wednesday April 27th 8:05 PM (ET)
HOU: J.A. Happ vs. STL: Kyle Lohse
J.A. Happ was the big piece of the Roy Oswalt trade and is not living up to expectations in the early going of the 2011 season. He currently has an ERA of 6.94 and has been extremely inconsistent where he could not get out of the fifth inning in two games giving up 13 runs and pitched at least 7 innings in the other two, giving up only five runs in those starts. Hopefully the 7 inning J.A. Happ shows up for Game 2.
Game 3: Thursday April 28, 8:05 PM (ET)
HOU: Nelson Figueroa vs. STL: Kyle McClellan
Nelson Figueroa will be looking to get his first win of the season while McClellan will be looking to stay undefeated in the final game of the three game series. Figueroa has not looked comfortable since winning the final spot in the rotation in spring training. He has given up over 5 runs in 3 of his four starts and his ERA currently sits at 13.50. The rumblings calling for Jordan Lyles keeps getting louder and louder after each one of Figueroa. Kyle McClellan has been a huge surprise for the Cardinals in his first year as starter going 3-0 in four starts and not giving up more than two runs in any start.
Prediction: The Astros luckily do not have to face Cardinals’ ace Chris Carpenter but the Cardinals other pitchers have pitched well so far this season. The Astros do have the talent to compete with the Cardinals but need to play near perfect to win the game and they haven’t been able to do it consistently. I think the Astros will be able to get one win but it is hard to predict them being able to take two of three.