Impressive Turnaround

The performance of their starting rotation was a big reason for the St. Louis Cardinals' disappointing 2007.

So far in 2008, an impressive turnaround by the rotation has led to a solid start for the Cardinals, who look to win six straight for the first time in more than a year Monday, when they begin a three-game series with the Houston Astros.

Oddsmakers from have made Houston -116 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 9 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 59% of bets for this game have been placed on St. Louis +106 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

After opening the season with a 2-1 loss to Colorado, St. Louis (5-1) has won five straight, including a three-game home sweep of Washington over the weekend. Kyle Lohse pitched seven innings of Sunday's 3-0 win to lower the ERA of St. Louis' starters to 0.96.

"(Manager Tony LaRussa's) talked to us about not taking a night off or day off, and I think that's what we've done," Lohse said. "Even in spring training, from what I saw, guys were out there playing the game the right way. We've won some tight games at home, and that's what it takes."

Rick Ankiel drove in two runs with an RBI double in the first inning and a solo home run in the third for the Cardinals.

St. Louis' starting rotation, which had the sixth-highest ERA in the majors last season at 5.04, has accounted for all five wins this season, beginning with Todd Wellemeyer's victory last Wednesday against Colorado.

Wellemeyer (1-0, 1.80 ERA) pitched five innings in that 8-3 win, allowing one run and four hits while striking out six.

Wellemeyer, who made 11 starts and nine relief appearances for St. Louis last season after being acquired off waivers from Kansas City in May, is 1-0 with a 5.27 ERA in six relief appearances and one start against the Astros (2-5).

The right-hander's only start against them came last Sept. 27, when he allowed one hit in five scoreless innings but did not receive a decision in a 4-3 win.

He'll now try to lead St. Louis to its longest winning streak since a seven-game run from July 7-16, 2006 - a streak which began with three wins at Houston.

The Astros are looking to avoid a third straight loss after dropping the final two games of their weekend set with the Cubs in Chicago, including a 3-2 defeat on Sunday.

Miguel Tejada's first home run with Houston tied the game in the top of the seventh, but Chicago's Derrek Lee homered in the bottom of the inning for the winning run.

"We didn't hit enough to have the runs we need, but it's OK," Tejada told the Astros' official Web site. "It's bad because we lost, but when you play close games like this, it means we played a good game."

Wandy Rodriguez (0-0, 7.20) takes the ball for the Astros in the series opener.

The left-hander allowed four runs and eight hits in five innings against the Padres last Wednesday, but escaped without a decision as the Astros went on to win 9-6.

Rodriguez is 1-4 with a 6.59 ERA in five career starts and one relief appearance against the Cardinals.

St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols is 0-for-9 lifetime versus Rodriguez - the most career at-bats without a hit for Pujols against any major league pitcher.

by: Dave Michaels - – Email Us

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