In The Cards

The St. Louis Cardinals have rebounded exceptionally well when they've been shut out. They may have a tougher time without Scott Rolen, though.

With Rolen expected to miss his second straight game, the Cardinals look to remain unbeaten in games after being shut out as they conclude a three-game set with the Houston Astros on Thursday.

St. Louis (64-65) had a chance to move within one game of the first-place Chicago Cubs in the NL Central, but lost 7-0 to Houston and ace Roy Oswalt on Wednesday night in the middle game of this series.

The Cardinals, though, are 10-0 following games in which they've been held without a run, crossing the plate an average of 5.5 times.

Oddsmakers from Bodog.com have made St. Louis -124 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 9.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 76% of bets for this game have been placed on St. Louis -124 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

But St. Louis may miss Rolen's veteran presence in the lineup Thursday, even though he's having a subpar season. Brendan Ryan went 0-for-3 as Rolen's replacement at third base Wednesday.

Rolen (left shoulder) will miss at least Thursday's game. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said two recent cortisone shots haven't reduced the pain.

"He's really feeling like he's going backwards," La Russa said. "We'll get back (to St. Louis) on Friday and we'll see where we stand."

Rolen, who has just eight home runs and 58 RBIs, had surgery on his left shoulder in 2005 and has had problems with it ever since.

St. Louis' pitching also faltered Wednesday after giving up just one run in its previous two games. Joel Pineiro (3-1, 3.86 ERA), who has pitched well in five starts since being acquired from Boston in late July, will take the mound for the Cardinals on Thursday.

The veteran right-hander, however, is coming off his worst outing since joining St. Louis, allowing three runs and seven hits in four innings of the Cardinals' 5-4 win over Atlanta on Saturday night. Pineiro won his previous three starts, posting a 2.37 ERA in that span.

Pineiro is 1-1 with a 2.40 ERA in two career starts against the Astros, but has not faced them since 2004.

Houston will counter with Matt Albers (3-6, 5.71 ERA), who has given up three runs or less in four of his last five starts. The right-hander allowed two runs - one earned - and six hits while striking out six in seven innings of an 8-3 loss to Pittsburgh on Friday night.

Albers earned a win against St. Louis on May 5, giving up three hits while walking one through 7 1-3 innings in a 13-0 Houston win. It was his first career start against the Cardinals.

The Astros got a gem from Oswalt on Wednesday, giving manager Cecil Cooper his first win since taking over for Phil Garner. Houston lost Cooper's debut 7-0 on Tuesday, one day after Garner was fired.

Cooper made some lineup changes Wednesday, moving Hunter Spence to the leadoff spot and dropping Craig Biggio to No. 2. Pence went 2-for-4 with an RBI, and Biggio scored twice as the Astros scored more than six runs for the first time since getting seven in a win against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Aug. 14.

"Hunter's a guy with some speed,'' Cooper said. "We're going to try to create some things."

Houston has won two of three following a three-game losing streak.

by: Michael Cash - thespread.com – Email Us

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