Wainwright tries to continue mastery of Astros

Adam Wainwright probably misses having the Houston Astros in the NL Central.

The St. Louis Cardinals ace tries to beat the Astros for the seventh time in his last seven meetings with the club on Tuesday in the opener of a two-game set at Busch Stadium.

Wainwright has not lost to the Astros since Aug. 2, 2009 and won all three of his starts against them in 2012, Houston's last season in the National League before shifting to the AL West. Wainwright had a 1.66 earned run average in the three encounters a year ago and is 12-1 lifetime versus the Astros with a 1.58 ERA in 20 games (14 starts).

The right-hander is looking to join Washington's Jordan Zimmermann as the only 12-game winners in the NL, bringing an 11-5 record and 2.36 ERA through 18 starts into tonight's outing.

Wainwright snapped a two-start slide with a one-run, complete-game effort at Oakland on June 29 and was in line to win at the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim last Thursday despite giving up four runs over eight-plus innings. However, Edward Mujica blew his first save chance of the season.

The 31-year-old Wainwright has gone at least eight innings in seven starts this season and it is unknown if he will be throwing to catcher Yadier Molina tonight.

Molina was not available in Sunday's 3-2 win over Miami due to a nagging right knee injury. An MRI left Molina with a diagnosis of inflammation and there was no structural damage. Not playing on Sunday and having an off day on Monday could allow him to return to action as soon as tonight.

Minus their All-Star catcher, the Cardinals finished off a much-needed three- game sweep of the Marlins. They had lost eight of 11 prior to the series and now lead Pittsburgh by a half game for first place in the NL Central.

"We've had some heartbreaks as of late," starter Lance Lynn said after his 11th victory of the season. "To be able to get a sweep any time of the year is great. It would be nice to get hot right before the All-Star break and rattle off a bunch of wins."

The Astros have dropped eight of their past 10 and lost Sunday's rubber match of a three-game set with the Texas Rangers by a 5-4 margin. Marc Krauss hit his first big league homer, but starter Erik Bedard allowed five runs -- four earned -- over 6 1/3 innings.

"I thought that Erik did a great job just battling through all the conditions in which he battled through," Astros manager Bo Porter said of his starter, who allowed three runs in the first frame. "I felt like we had some chances offensively, just wasn't able to come up with the big hit."

Porter will turn to his top pitcher of the season tonight in Bud Norris, who is 6-7 with a 3.22 ERA in 18 starts.

Norris won for the first time in six outings on Wednesday, getting a positive 4-1 decision over Tampa Bay. The righty allowed a run on six hits and three walks, logging seven innings of work and striking out five.

"I was very happy to see him pitch as well as he pitched," said Porter. "He's had a lot of games where he's pitched good enough to win but our offense just wasn't there."

Norris picked up his first victory since June 1 and logged his ninth straight outing of at least six innings.

The 28-year-old is 8-5 lifetime versus the Cardinals with a 2.74 ERA in 15 meetings.

The Cards won 11 of their 15 meetings with the Astros last season, taking all six meetings in St. Louis. The former division rivals split a two-game set in Houston from June 25-26 of this year.