Cardinals hope to keep playoff hopes alive vs. Astros

The St. Louis Cardinals have a chance to punch their ticket game series against the Houston Astros from Minute Maid Park.

The Cardinals forced a tie with Atlanta atop the National League wild card standings thanks to a 13-6 win last night coupled with Atlanta's setback to Philadelphia. If the Cardinals and Braves are tied at the end of the day, there will be a one-game playoff between the teams Thursday at Busch Stadium.

"There's a different story between tying and finishing it off, so we have another step," Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa said.

LA Russa's club was at one point 10 1/2 games off the wild card lead.

Allen Craig finished 2-for-3 with a home run, three runs scored and four RBI, while Nick Punto collected four hits, including a home run, for the Cardinals, who had dropped three of five games. Skip Schumaker knocked in three runs and Lance Berkman posted three hits and three runs scored in the win.

Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook lasted only 2 1/3 innings and allowed five runs and seven hits for the no-decision. Eduardo Sanchez tossed 1 1/3 shutout innings of relief for the win.

La Russa will hand the ball to staff ace Chris Carpenter tonight and he's 10-9 with a 3.59 earned run average in 33 starts this season. Carpenter owns a 2-0 mark in his previous five outings and did not figure into the decision of Friday's 5-1 loss against the Chicago Cubs. He held the Cubs to a run and five hits in seven innings of work.

The right-hander has faced Houston 18 times in his career, all starts, and is 7-5 with a 2.79 ERA in that stretch. Carpenter is 6-6 in 16 road starts.

Houston has lost five of eight games and hopes to close out a disappointing campaign on a high note. Enerio Del Rosario was charged with three runs in St. Louis' game-changing four-run seventh to take the loss.

"They have guys on their bench right now that for a lot of teams would be playing," Astros reliever Wesley Wright said of St. Louis' depth. "They can take out guys and replace them with guys that are just as good if not better."

Henry Sosa started for the 'Stros and allowed five runs in 3 1/3 innings. Jose Altuve collected three hits and both Jimmy Paredes and Brett Wallace knocked in a pair of runs for the Astros.

Brett Myers draws the assignment for Houston on Wednesday and has won his last four trips to the mound. Myers fired six innings of one-run ball in an 11-2 win over Colorado his last time out on Friday, lifting his season record to 7-13 in 33 games (32 starts) with a 4.31 ERA.

In 19 career meetings (17 starts) against St. Louis, the right-hander is 6-5 with a 4.54 ERA.

St. Louis has won nine of 14 matchups with Houston this season.