Wainwright to Provide Relief

The St. Louis Cardinals are calling on Adam Wainwright to provide relief again, except this time that call won't be made to the bullpen.

The Cardinals hope Wainwright can help them overcome their rough beginning to their World Series title defense when he makes his first career start Friday against the Houston Astros in a matchup between 0-3 teams.

Wainwright moves into a rotation that lost Jeff Suppan, Jeff Weaver and Jason Marquis to free agency and Mark Mulder to a shoulder injury.

Oddsmakers have made St Louis -1.5 point spread favorites (MLB Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 9ev total runs (View MLB Sports Books). Our public betting information

shows that 62% of bets for this game have been placed on St Louis -1.5 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

Pressed into the closer role during the playoffs last season after Jason Isringhausen suffered a hip injury, Wainwright was on the mound when the Cardinals clinched the NLCS and World Series.

Wainwright, acquired in December 2003 in a trade that sent outfielder J.D. Drew to Atlanta, went 49-30 with a 3.76 ERA in 135 minor league starts. He was 4-2 with a 1.10 ERA while starting six of his seven appearances this spring.

"I feel like I could help this team either way, but I grew up starting," said Wainwright, who went 2-1 with a 3.12 ERA in 61 regular-season appearances last year. "I always wanted to start in the big leagues, so that is another thing I get to say I have done if I get to do it. But at the same time, there's nothing like getting those last three outs."

Wainwright is the second Cardinal in as many games to make his first career start. Braden Looper threw five scoreless innings before allowing three runs in the sixth inning of a 10-0 defeat to the New York Mets on Wednesday.

The Cardinals were outscored 20-2 and went 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position in getting swept by the Mets. St. Louis is the first defending World Series champion to lose its first three games since the 1984 Baltimore Orioles opened with four straight defeats.

"We're better than that, and I don't care how good (the Mets') pitching is," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "No. 1, we are better than that, and No. 2, we have to be better than that if we expect to have a season contention. I think we'll fix it, sooner than later."

The Astros are coming off a three-game sweep at the hands of Pittsburgh, and will turn to left-hander Wandy Rodriguez on Friday. Rodriguez went 9-10 with a 5.64 ERA in 30 appearances last season.

Houston blew late leads in the first two games against the Pirates and allowed the go-ahead run to score in a 5-4 loss on Wednesday on a play in which shortstop Adam Everett committed two errors.

"Sometimes," Houston manager Phil Garner said, "weird stuff happens."

Rodriguez has not won since defeating Texas on July 2, going 0-5 with a 7.92 ERA while starting six of his last 12 appearances. The beginning of the drought was a five-inning start against the Cardinals in which he allowed four runs and seven hits in an 8-2 loss on July 7.

Rodriguez has a 10.54 ERA while losing all three of his career starts against St. Louis, never lasting more than six innings. Cardinals star Albert Pujols, though, is 0-for-6 with two walks against Rodriguez.

The Astros took the last five meetings between these teams last year to win the season series 9-7. Houston won seven of 10 matchups at Minute Maid Park.

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