Veteran righty Chris Carpenter makes his second start since returning from a right shoulder injury Wednesday when the St. Louis Cardinals close out a three-game series with the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
Carpenter, who won 11 games in 34 starts last season, was hurt before the start of the 2012 schedule and shelved for its duration until hitting the mound on Sept. 21 against the Chicago Cubs.
He turned in a five-inning stint and allowed two runs on five hits while getting a no-decision in the Cardinals' 5-4 loss. Carpenter walked one and struck out two in his return against the Cubs.
The start against the Astros is the 20th of his career in this matchup. Over the first 19, he's 8-5 with a 2.62 earned run average across 144 1/3 innings, with 32 walks, 104 strikeouts and an opposition batting average of .224.
Houston replies with righty Bud Norris, whose long-term skid reached 18 starts in his last outing on Sept. 20.
He allowed five runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings in a 5-4 loss to the Cardinals and has now gone 0-12 since defeating the Cubs to improve to 5-1 on the season back on May 21.
He's lost to the Cardinals three times in the stretch, combining to allow 20 hits and 12 runs in 17 1/3 innings.
The Astros are 1-17 in games he's pitched since the last win.
On Tuesday, Jaime Garcia pitched seven shutout innings and Jon Jay drove in a pair of runs as the Cardinals downed the Astros, 4-0.
St. Louis, which has won four straight, now sits 4 1/2 games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Milwaukee Brewers for the final wild card spot in the National League.
Garcia (6-7) gave up just six hits with five strikeouts to win his second straight start while Yadier Molina and Peter Kozma each drove in a run for the Cardinals, who have won 10 straight over the Astros.
"I'm feeling good right now, physically," Garcia said. "I'm just worrying about one game at a time, one pitch at a time; just make my pitches and give the team a chance to win."
Lucas Harrell (10-11) remained winless over his past seven starts as he gave up two runs on seven hits in five innings of work for the Astros, who have lost six of eight. Brandon Laird and Jose Altuve each had two hits in the loss.
"I felt like I never picked up a baseball before," Harrell said. "It was embarrassing and it was bad."
The Cardinals won nine of the first 12 games between the teams in 2012, including eight in a row since June 6. St. Louis won the season series in 2011, 10-5.