Streaking former ace Adam Wainwright aims for a fifth straight win Tuesday when the St. Louis Cardinals host the Houston Astros in the opening game of a three-game series at Busch Stadium.
Wainwright was 7-10 on the season after a 4-3 loss at Milwaukee on July 18, but has since bounced back with four wins in five starts while trimming the earned run average from 4.42 to 3.87.
He was a 5-2 winner over Arizona in his most recent start in Aug. 15, allowing two runs on five hits in six innings.
He's 11-1 with a complete game and two holds in 19 career appearances against the Astros.
Houston replies with righty Lucas Harrell, who looks to build on the first double-digit win season of his career.
The 27-year-old got to 10 wins on Aug. 14 with a 10-1 defeat of the Chicago Cubs after giving up a run on six hits in eight innings.
He's won three of four starts since beginning the season at 7-7 and has lowered his earned run average from 4.77 in late June to 3.81 after the win over the Cubs.
Harrell is 2-0 in three career meetings with the Cardinals.
On Sunday in Houston, Tony DeFrancesco made his debut as Houston's interim skipper but was welcomed to the major leagues rudely as Ian Kennedy fanned seven over six innings of one-run ball in Arizona's 8-1 win.
"My first major league managerial game, unfortunately, it didn't work out the way we wanted," DeFrancesco said. "It was an honor. It was an honor to put the Astro uniform on, to be a part of the organization, and I'm excited to get it going."
Armando Galarraga (0-4) didn't make it out of the fourth inning as he allowed five runs on six hits with a pair of walks and a strikeout in 3 2/3 frames.
Jason Castro knocked in the only run for the skidding Astros, who have lost six of their last seven games. In addition to manager Brad Mills, the club released hitting coach Mike Barnett and first base coach Bobby Meachem.
In St. Louis, after surviving a 19-inning marathon, the Pittsburgh Pirates placed ahead of the Cardinals on the scoreboard, 6-3, and in the standings.
Pedro Alvarez crushed a 1-2 slider over the center-field fence for a solo homer in the 19th to give the Pirates the win.
Barret Browning (1-3), who picked up his first career win on Saturday, took the loss after allowing the home run with one out in the top of the 19th.
"Twenty innings or nine innings, a loss is a loss," Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran said.
The teams split their first six games of 2012, with the Astros taking two of three in May in Houston, while the Cardinals won two of three there in June.