Adam Wainwright hopes to put his early season struggles behind him this afternoon when the St. Louis Cardinals try to salvage the finale of a three-game set with the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
Wainwright, who missed all of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, has yet to flash the form that made him a National League Cy Young Award candidate from 2009-10, going just 1-3 through his first five starts with a 6.75 earned run average.
However, he did pick up a win in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, despite giving up four runs and five hits - two home runs - in seven innings.
"I think if you look at 90 percent of my game (Tuesday), it was pretty good," Wainwright said. "I feel like each time I'm getting a little sharper."
Wainwright has an excellent chance of staying in the win column this afternoon, as he is an incredible 9-1 with a 1.56 ERA ion 17 games (11 starts) versus the Astros.
Houston, meanwhile, will hand the ball to lefty J.A. Happ, who unlike Wainwright, has struggled mightily against his opponent, posting a miserable 1-6 mark with a 6.44 ERA in eight starts against the Cards.
Happ, though, has been decent for the over-achieving Astros this season and is coming off a win in his last time out against the New York Mets. Happ surrendered three runs and six hits in 6 1/3 innings in that one and improved to 2-1 with a 4.60 ERA.
On Saturday, Chris Johnson belted his first career grand slam and Houston pounded the Cardinals, 8-2. Jed Lowrie crushed a two-run homer, Justin Maxwell contributed an RBI double and starter Bud Norris helped his own cause with a sacrifice fly for the Astros, who have won five in a row.
"They were able to scratch that run off of us in the top of the first, but it was nice to come back," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "Anytime you get a grand slam it's awful nice, but the way we went about it was better. To load the bases with three walks and then he (Johnson) was able to get a ball up and hit the grand slam."
Houston hasn't won six in a row since a seven-game run July 27-Aug. 3, 2010. Another win today would also give the Astros their first set of back-to-back sweeps since it took six straight games from the Cardinals and Cubs between Aug. 29 and Sept. 3, 2008.
Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday had an RBI single apiece for the defending World Series champs, who have dropped three consecutive contests.
Jaime Garcia (2-2) gave up six runs on four hits and four walks while striking out two over six innings.
Also, Astros outfielder Jordan Schafer, who did not play Saturday, has reached base safely in 25 straight games, a stretch that is tied with Denis Menke for the longest in franchise history to open a season.
St. Louis was 10-5 against the Astros last season.