Slumping

The St. Louis Cardinals' offense is finally starting to show some signs of life. The same cannot be said for the Houston Astros.

The Cardinals try to win four straight games for the first time in nearly two months when they play the middle game of their weekend series with the slumping Astros on Saturday.

Oddsmakers have made Houston -140 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 8.5 total runs (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 53% of bets for this game have been placed on Houston -140 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

The reigning World Series champion Cardinals (23-29) went 12-15 in May, but opened June with an 8-1 win over Houston (22-23).

St. Louis has a major league-low 202 runs this season, but has scored 23 times during its winning streak. The Cardinals, who have not won four straight games since April 8-11, pushed seven runs across the plate in the ninth inning on Friday, as Juan Encarnacion and Gary Bennett hit their first homers of the season on consecutive pitches.

Bennett also added a two-run double in the ninth, after going 3-for-4 with two RBIs in Thursday's 7-3 win at Colorado.

"Two hits in one inning? I probably haven't had two at-bats in one inning since Little League, since I was 10 or 11 years old,'' he said with a smile.

While St. Louis' offense is heating up, Houston's offense remains inept.

The Astros have lost 11 of 12 games, scoring two runs or less in seven of those contests.

"I'm terribly disappointed in the way we played tonight," Houston manager Phil Garner said. "I keep saying it. I keep believing it. I think we're better offensively than we're showing. But we've got to start showing it pretty soon here."

Houston's Chris Sampson (4-5, 3.44 ERA) will start Saturday after a disappointing May as a result of the unproductive offense.

Sampson had a lower ERA in May (3.34) than in April (3.55), but it did not convert to a better record. The right-hander went 3-1 in four April outings, receiving 24 runs of support in those games, but went just 1-4 in five May starts, backed by a mere five runs in those contests.

He dropped his second straight outing when he gave up three runs and four hits in six innings of a 5-4 loss to Arizona last Saturday.

In his only career start against the Cardinals on May 6, Sampson was limited to just 4 2-3 innings as he took the mound two days after experiencing sinus trouble. He threw 64 pitches and gave up three runs and five hits in a 3-1 loss.

St. Louis starter Kip Wells (2-9, 6.20 ERA) has had minimal success this season, but he returns to one of the few stadiums where he has pitched well this year.

Pitching in his hometown, the Houston native threw one-hit ball over seven shutout innings in a 10-1 win over the Astros in his second start of the season on April 8. That outstanding performance hardly carried over, though, as Wells went on to lose his next seven starts - including getting tagged for seven runs in a season-low 4 1-3 innings in a 13-0 loss to Houston on May 5.

Wells is 3-3 in 10 career starts at Minute Maid Park, but he's posted a 7.67 ERA in losing his last five road starts overall.

The right-hander gave up six runs and a season-high 11 hits in 6 1-3 innings of a 6-2 loss at Colorado on Monday.

by: Dave Michaels - thespread.com – Email Us

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