Launching Pad: Cards try to salvage finale against Astros

What to expect in the major leagues today:

Bottom feeders?

Both NL Central contenders are trying to take advantage of soft spots in their schedules. The Cardinals outscored the last-place Pirates 21-2 during a three-game sweep this past weekend and will play the finale of a three-game series against the Astros tonight. 

St. Louis is leaning on Chris Carpenter after getting hammered by the Astros on Tuesday.
St. Louis is leaning on Chris Carpenter after getting hammered by the Astros on Tuesday.

St. Louis, which lost 18-4 to the Astros on Tuesday and 9-4 on Monday, will have Chris Carpenter on the mound, though Houston handed him one of his three losses this season. Starting for the Astros: newly acquired J.A. Happ, who shut down Milwaukee this past Friday to win in his Astros debut. 

Meanwhile, the Reds will try to win the rubber game of their three-game set against the Pirates before heading to Wrigley Field this weekend. Ten-game winner Johnny Cueto, who is 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in three starts against Pittsburgh this season, will start for Cincinnati.

Milestone watch

With Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez still stuck on 599 career homers, it is fair to wonder whether the Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista will reach the 600-homer plateau before A-Rod. OK, maybe not, but Bautista does lead the majors in homers this season.

If A-Rod is unable to go deep tonight against the Jays—right-hander Shaun Marcum will start for Toronto—it would add some intrigue to this weekend’s series against Boston. A-Rod would have four games at Yankee Stadium to hit No. 600 against New York’s biggest rivals.

Masterful Masterson

Prior to making the trip to the Bronx, Boston will host Cleveland for two more games. Tonight, former Red Sox right-hander Justin Masterson will start for the Indians. Masterson is just 3-10 with a 5.55 ERA this season but he tossed a complete-game shutout against the Red Sox back in June in his most impressive outing of the season.

Boston will counter with Jon Lester, who was roughed up (six earned runs in six innings) by Cleveland in the teams’ previous series.

Chris Bahr is Sporting News’ baseball editor. E-mail him at cbahr@sportingnews.com.

What to expect in the major leagues today:

Bottom feeders?

Both NL Central contenders are trying to take advantage of soft spots in their schedules. The Cardinals outscored the last-place Pirates 21-2 during a three-game sweep this past weekend and will play the finale of a three-game series against the Astros tonight. 

St. Louis is leaning on Chris Carpenter after getting hammered by the Astros on Tuesday.
St. Louis is leaning on Chris Carpenter after getting hammered by the Astros on Tuesday.

St. Louis, which lost 18-4 to the Astros on Tuesday and 9-4 on Monday, will have Chris Carpenter on the mound, though Houston handed him one of his three losses this season. Starting for the Astros: newly acquired J.A. Happ, who shut down Milwaukee this past Friday to win in his Astros debut. 

Meanwhile, the Reds will try to win the rubber game of their three-game set against the Pirates before heading to Wrigley Field this weekend. Ten-game winner Johnny Cueto, who is 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in three starts against Pittsburgh this season, will start for Cincinnati.

Milestone watch

With Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez still stuck on 599 career homers, it is fair to wonder whether the Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista will reach the 600-homer plateau before A-Rod. OK, maybe not, but Bautista does lead the majors in homers this season.

If A-Rod is unable to go deep tonight against the Jays—right-hander Shaun Marcum will start for Toronto—it would add some intrigue to this weekend’s series against Boston. A-Rod would have four games at Yankee Stadium to hit No. 600 against New York’s biggest rivals.

Masterful Masterson

Prior to making the trip to the Bronx, Boston will host Cleveland for two more games. Tonight, former Red Sox right-hander Justin Masterson will start for the Indians. Masterson is just 3-10 with a 5.55 ERA this season but he tossed a complete-game shutout against the Red Sox back in June in his most impressive outing of the season.

Boston will counter with Jon Lester, who was roughed up (six earned runs in six innings) by Cleveland in the teams’ previous series.

Chris Bahr is Sporting News’ baseball editor. E-mail him at cbahr@sportingnews.com.

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