The St. Louis Cardinals' longest game in more than two years didn't go their way, but the team remains in the playoff hunt.
The major league-worst Houston Astros aren't even close to contention, but interim manager Tony DeFrancesco still plans to treat the final stretch like a pennant chase.
Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright will try to win his sixth straight start against the Astros on Tuesday night at Busch Stadium.
With a chance to tie division rival Pittsburgh in the standings, St. Louis (65-56) fell 6-3 to the Pirates in 19 innings Sunday in a game that took 6 hours, 7 minutes. It was the Cardinals' longest game since going 20 innings against the New York Mets on April 17, 2010.
"I don't know if it could be any more disappointing," manager Mike Matheny told the Cardinals' official website.
Chasing down NL Central-leading Cincinnati might be a stretch, but St. Louis is still well within striking distance of a wild-card spot.
"We've got to win every series. It doesn't matter who it's against," Matheny said.
The Astros (39-83) seem like the perfect opponent for the Cardinals, who have nine more games against Houston as they look to make another late-season playoff push.
The majors' worst road team at 12-48, the Astros haven't won a series in an NL opponent's park this season.
The Astros make their first visit to St. Louis in 2012 - these clubs have split six games at Houston - with an 0-1 record since DeFrancesco, the former manager of the franchise's Triple-A affiliate, replaced the fired Brad Mills following Saturday's 12-4 loss to Arizona.
"My first major league managing game didn't work out the way I wanted it," DeFrancesco said after an 8-1 loss to the Diamondbacks on Sunday. "But it was an honor to put the Astros uniform on and be part of the organization."
While Houston's management will use the final six weeks of the season to evaluate talent on the NL's youngest team, DeFrancesco will also be under the microscope with first-year owner Jim Crane hoping to name a permanent manager by Nov. 1.
"If there's a guy that comes in and knocks our socks off, it might be in two weeks," Crane said.
DeFrancesco may have a hard time getting his first win with Wainwright (11-10, 3.87 ERA) taking the ball. The right-hander, 4-0 with a 2.04 ERA in his past five outings overall, is 11-1 with a 1.59 ERA in 13 starts against Houston after recording victories at Minute Maid Park on May 6 and June 6.
Wainwright has held the Astros without a run over 16 innings in his last two home starts in the series.
Lucas Harrell (10-8, 3.81), who has accounted for three of Houston's seven wins over its last 47 games, will try to help the club end a four-game skid in his first career start at St. Louis. The Missouri native has allowed four runs - three earned - in each of his two starts against the Cardinals this season, winning both.
The right-hander has given up two runs or fewer in each of his seven starts since the All-Star break, posting a 2.06 ERA in that stretch.
Greene, though, will be in an Astros jersey for this three-game set after the Cardinals traded him Aug. 9 for a player to be named later or cash considerations.
|August 07, 2012||Jordan Schafer||15-Day DL||Left shoulder separation|
|August 02, 2012||Francisco Cordero||15-Day DL||Inflamed right big toe|
|July 31, 2012||Wilton Lopez||Day-to-Day||Right elbow tightness|
|July 15, 2012||Jed Lowrie||15-Day DL||Sprained right ankle|
|July 14, 2012||Jed Lowrie||Day-to-Day||Right ankle|
|July 08, 2012||Jason Castro||15-Day DL||Fluid in right knee|
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|August 16, 2012||Yadier Molina||Day-to-Day||Back stiffness|
|August 08, 2012||Allen Craig||Day-to-Day||Sore ribs|
|August 03, 2012||Lance Berkman||15-Day DL||Right knee inflammation|
|July 28, 2012||Rafael Furcal||Day-to-Day||Stiff back|
|July 26, 2012||David Freese||Day-to-Day||Left game - right calf cramp|
|July 24, 2012||Lance Berkman||Day-to-Day||Left game - HBP right knee|
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Adam Wainwright was given a huge early cushion against a team that's been pushed around for months, and did not let it go to his head.
The St. Louis Cardinals right-hander just kept mowing them down.
Wainwright matched his career high with 12 strikeouts in a five-hitter and the Cardinals punished rookie Lucas Harrell with six runs in the first three innings, getting over an excruciating 19-inning loss two days earlier with a 7-0 victory over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.
"I tried to keep them off the basepaths," Wainwright said. "Sometimes a young team like that is most dangerous when they're behind, so I told myself `Don't let up, don't let your focus go, keep making pitches."'
Skip Schumaker and Yadier Molina had two RBIs apiece for the Cardinals, who got six hits the first seven at-bats in a four-run first and then capitalized on a pair of walks to open a two-run third. Jon Jay had three hits and an RBI.
"We're not thinking about the other day," Schumaker said. "It's why you play 162. I know a lot of people are bringing that up, but we haven't thought about that. We're trying to beat the Astros."
Wainwright (12-10) threw his second shutout and third complete game of the season. Two of the complete games have come during a string of six consecutive victories at home with a 1.42 ERA. He pitched a five-hitter on Aug. 4, a 6-1 victory over the Brewers.
"He's fun to watch," manager Mike Matheny said. "He thrives on those opportunities to lead by example."
Wainwright is 12-1 with a 1.58 ERA for his career against Houston. The Astros got two-out hits in the ninth from Justin Maxwell and Jason Castro in a bid to spoil the shutout before Wainwright fanned Ben Francisco on his 105th pitch.
"Oh my God, he was doing so good today," Astros leadoff man Jose Altuve said after going 1 for 4. "He threw every pitch he wanted in every location he wanted."
The Astros have been outscored 15-1 in two games under interim manager Tony DeFrancesco, who held a team meeting prior to the game in an effort to lift the stripped-down franchise out of the doldrums. Houston is just 7-41 since June 28.
Tyler Greene , a former Cardinals first-round pick dealt to Houston earlier this year for a player to be named, struck out twice and grounded out in his first game in St. Louis as a visitor.
Harrell (10-9) had allowed two or fewer runs in each of his last seven starts, but balked home the first run and got a visit from pitching coach Doug Brocail after facing just five hitters. The right-hander retired just five of the first 15 batters before settling down, allowing a walk and sacrifice fly the last 10 hitters.
Harrell is from Springfield, Mo., and made his first career start in Missouri and a large contingent of family and friends were waiting outside the clubhouse after the game. He beat the Cardinals in his first two starts this season.
"That's why it's frustrating and disappointing," Harrell said. "I feel like I let a lot of people down. That's definitely not my best and I can't wait to come back here and have a better outing."
The day after their 6-3, 19-inning loss to the Pirates - the longest game in the majors this season - Matheny led a delegation to help rebuild tornado-ravaged Joplin, Mo., and other Cardinals played charity golf.
"I think everybody was pretty busy yesterday," Matheny said before the game. "It was a good day to get involved in the community and get some positive things done."
Jay doubled to start the bottom of the first, and with one out St. Louis got five straight singles from Matt Holliday , Allen Craig , David Freese , Molina and Schumaker. Craig and Freese walked to start the third, Molina followed with an RBI single and Rafael Furcal added a sacrifice fly.
The Astros were shut out for the 12th time.
NOTES: Wainwright has five career double-digit strikeouts games and this was the first since May 25, 2010, at San Diego. ... Bud Norris (5-10, 5.23) is 7-3 for his career against the Cardinals heading into Wednesday night's start against Kyle Lohse (12-2, 2.61). ... Carlos Beltran , 4 for 23 on the homestand and bothered by a right hand injury, missed his second start in three games but is not expected to be out long. ... The Cardinals are 56-14 when scoring more than three runs. ... Craig had a single to extend his hitting streak to 10 games and also walked three times. ... Craig is 10 for 23 (.435) against Houston this season and 21-48 for his career with five homers and 17 RBIs. ... Altuve is a career .393 hitter (22 for 56) against St. Louis.