St. Louis Cardinals (47-29) vs Houston Astros (29-48)
Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas
Despite being swept by the Texas Rangers over their previous three games, the St. Louis Cardinals still maintain the best record in baseball. With the National League Central having the top three teams in the MLB (Cardinals, Pirates and Reds) through this point, the Cardinals now cling to their one game lead in the divisional race. The Cards have feasted on the Astros over the last two seasons, going 21-9 during that span, so they hope to continue that success now that their old rival is an AL team.
The Houston Astros are one game over .500 since May 15 (19-18). These last 17 games before the All-Star Break will go a long way towards deciding whether or not the Astros will suffer 100+ losses for the third consecutive year. They will face some tough competition during that run: playing the Cards four times, the LA Angels three times, seven games against the Tampa Bay Rays and three versus the Rangers. If Houston wants to have any level of success during that span, their starting pitching will have to continue to limit the bullpen’s usage.
This game will be a battle of extreme ground ball pitchers. Since returning from the disabled list on June 14th, Jake Westbrook has induced 31 ground balls in twelve innings. In his last outing, Westbrook threw seven innings against the Cubs, allowing just two hits and one unearned run.
Lucas Harrell continued his strong month of June by throwing 5.1 innings and giving up just one earned run against the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday. During that game, Harrell’s defense failed him and he allowed three unearned runs thanks to three errors. The Astros eventually came back and won the game 7-4 in ten innings.
After allowing seven earned runs to the hapless Miami Marlins on June 15th, Lance Lynn managed a bounce-back start against the Cubs in his last start. On Thursday, Lynn threw six strong innings, allowing just one run on three hits while striking out six. Here’s a stat that MLB Network’s Brian Kenny would love (note: I am being sarcastic) — Lance Lynn has ten wins this season, which is tied for second behind only Detroit’s Max Scherzer.
Erik Bedard was terrific in Friday’s start against the Brewers. He threw 7.1 innings and allowed one run while striking out eight. In eight starts since returning to the rotation, Bedard has gone 2-1 with a 3.06 ERA in 47 innings pitched. He is 1-3 with a 5.91 ERA in his career versus the Cardinals.