Cardinals hope to keep playoff chances alive vs. Astros

Losing to the worst team in baseball has to be tough to swallow for a Cardinals team trying desperately to make a postseason push.

St. Louis did just that against the Houston Astros in last night's opener of a three-game series and looks to even the set Tuesday at Minute Maid Park. It dropped a 5-4 decision in 10 innings after Brian Bogusevic scored the game- winning run on a bunt single by Angel Sanchez. Bogusevic doubled to lead off the inning and went to third when Cardinals reliever Octavio Dotel misplayed a Jason Bourgeois sacrifice bunt to the mound.

Dotel was strapped with the loss and the Cardinals remained a game behind Atlanta for the Wild Card lead in the National League. The Braves lost to Philadelphia on Monday and the Cardinals couldn't take advantage.

"I look at it like, all it takes is they lose one and we win one," said Cardinals slugger Lance Berkman. "I think we win the next two games we have an excellent shot. I really feel that way."

Berkman drove in two runs and Matt Holliday ended with two hits and an RBI in defeat. Albert Pujols is two RBI shy of extending his Major League record to 11 consecutive seasons of at least 30 homers and 100 runs driven in with a batting average .300 or better.

Jaime Garcia started for St. Louis and did not record a decision, as he surrendered four runs and four hits in four innings. The Cardinals have lost three of five games since a four-game winning streak. Shortstop Rafael Furcal could miss the last two games of this series after he departed Monday's game in the fifth inning with a left hamstring injury.

"He'll miss a couple games," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "He's got a little tug in his hamstring, so I don't see him playing the next two games here."

A loss by St. Louis and a win for Atlanta will decide the NL Wild Card.

Jake Westbrook will try to keep playoff hopes alive when he takes the mound for St. Louis this evening. Westbrook is 12-9 with a 4.48 earned run average in 32 starts this season and has dropped two of his last three decisions. In Thursday's 8-6 loss to the New York Mets, he allowed only one run in six innings for the no-decision.

Westbrook, a right-hander, is 2-2 with a 3.77 ERA in five career starts against the Astros and 8-4 in 16 outings on the road this season.

Houston had dropped two in a row and four of six games before squeezing out a tight win last night. Matt Downs homered and Mark Melancon pitched two scoreless innings of relief for the victory, while starter Wandy Rodriguez held the Cardinals to a pair of runs over 6 1/3 innings. The lefty also knocked in a run at the plate.

Bourgeois and Sanchez each had an RBI before helping the Astros to victory in extra innings.

"It's a fun play to be on the bases," Bourgeois said of the bunt. "It wasn't a suicide [squeeze] so I had to make a read."

Astros rookie Henry Sosa will try to close out the season with back-to-back wins when he takes the ball tonight. He ended a personal three-start losing streak in Thursday's 9-6 victory versus Colorado and gave up three runs over 6 1/3 innings of work.

Sosa is 3-5 in nine starts to go along with a 4.68 earned run average and will face St. Louis for the first time. The righty is 2-1 in four home starts.

St. Louis has won eight of 13 matchups with Houston this season.