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STL@CHC: Carpenter debuts with five solid innings

As St. Louis tries to hold off the field in the National League Wild Card race, the Cardinals have spent the last week and a half making it difficult for the rest of the pack to catch up.

They hope to continue that trend on Wednesday against the Astros at Minute Maid Park. St. Louis will be looking for a sweep over Houston that will give the club its fifth straight win and ninth victory in the last 10 games.

With the Cardinals' win over the Astros on Tuesday, they have a 4 1/2-game lead over the Dodgers and Brewers. In the series finale against the Astros, it will be Chris Carpenter on the mound looking to help St. Louis extend or at least maintain its lead.

Carpenter will be making his second start of the season after the organization announced three months ago that he wouldn't pitch this year because of surgery needed for thoracic outlet syndrome. His first start came against the Cubs on Friday, when he pitched five innings and allowed two runs on five hits in an eventual 5-4 loss for the Cardinals.

After the game, Carpenter said he wasn't as sharp as he thought he'd be, but he'll have a chance to improve on that game Wednesday.

"I did the best I could to get as many outs as I could and give us a chance," Carpenter said. "It was fun to go out there. It's definitely something I can build on, and hopefully my stuff is sharper as I get out there more often."

Carpenter will be facing an Astros lineup that has scored two runs in the last three games, including Tuesday's shutout loss.

With the offense sputtering and Carpenter out to improve on his last start, Astros interim manager Tony DeFrancesco will rely on the right arm of Bud Norris, who faced the Cardinals in his last start. In that game on Thursday, Norris struggled through flu-like symptoms and surrendered five runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings.

Wednesday likely won't be any easier for Norris, as he'll be battling through a blister problem and an infection on his scalp while looking for his first win since May 21.

"I gave it everything I had," Norris said after his last start. "It's been a tough couple of days, but I went out there and gave it everything I had. I pitched around a three-run homer in the first on a bad pitch, but like I said, I scrapped my way through it, and I'm just trying to give it everything I've got."

Astros: Wednesday marks end of an era
When the Astros take the field at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday, it will be the last time they do so as members of the National League.

Houston wraps up the season with six road games before making the transition to the American League West next season after more than 50 years playing in the NL. The move comes following Jim Crane's purchase of the organization, and it gives each division in Major League Baseball five teams.

Wednesday also marks the final game for Milo Hamilton, who has been the primary voice of the Astros since 1987. A part of the Houston radio broadcast since 1985, Hamilton began announcing mostly home games in 2006, and he won't join the broadcast for the final six road games of the season. Audio for Wednesday's game will be streamed live in a free, national broadcast on MLB.com.

Cardinals: Freese likely out for series finale
For the second game in a row, the Cardinals likely will be without the services of David Freese.

Freese rolled his ankle in the indoor batting cage on Monday, and he sat out Tuesday's game. He skipped batting practice and worked out his arms during his pregame workouts, saying he's "not going to push it at all."

The 29-year-old third baseman is batting .296 this season, with 79 RBIs and 20 home runs.

"I would think I'm going to miss [Wednesday]," Freese said. "I think that's a realistic guess. Then have the off-day and get back out on Friday, hopefully."

Worth noting
• The Cardinals will be looking for their 11th straight win over the Astros in the teams' last game as NL opponents.

• The Astros head into their final home game of the season at 6-6 in their last 12 contests at Minute Maid Park.

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