04/11/10 1:21 PM ET
Cards open home slate vs. struggling Astros
By Bailey Stephens / MLB.com
The Astros will have to do so against a familiar but tough division foe in the Cardinals, who have gotten off to a strong start on the road. The Cards return to Busch Stadium for their home opener Monday and have awarded the starting honor to co-ace Adam Wainwright.
"It's very exciting," Wainwright said. "I like even just driving to the park and seeing the buzz around the stadium. They've got the banners up. People already have their grills out, you smell the smoke. That pumps me up. It's a big deal. The Clydesdales. It's really like a show within a show."
The Astros' bats, which are looking to get going, will continue their work against Wainwright, who shined in his season debut against the Reds, allowing just three hits in seven innings to pick up the victory.
Houston is mindful of the fact that St. Louis and Wainwright represent a tough task, but also an opportunity to turn it around against a division opponent.
"We've got a big series coming up against one of the stronger teams in our division, and you always look forward to being able to play the Cardinals," outfielder Hunter Pence said after Sunday's 2-1 loss to the Phillies. "To get the ball rolling, we've got to continue to prepare and we can't press to make things happen. We've got to continue to go out there and be prepared and trust in our talent and trust in our ability and believe in ourselves."
There is some good news for the Astros, as starter Wandy Rodriguez has pitched pretty well recently against St. Louis, despite a losing record. In five starts against the Cards last season, he finished 1-3 with a 3.72 ERA. He's been especially effective against superstar Albert Pujols -- holding the slugger to a .131 average with just one homer in 31 career at-bats.
Rodriguez was solid in his first start against San Francisco, allowing three runs, but was victimized by a lack of run support and saddled with the loss.
Rodriguez should be especially focused on keeping the Cards in the ballpark as they have gotten power production up and down their lineup in the early going, with four players with multiple homers and 12 as a team.
Wainwright was outstanding in his first start of the season, and pronounced himself a good six weeks ahead of where he was at this point last year. His results were mostly good early last season, but he was walking far too many batters. This time around, he seems to be in a groove right away as he gave up only three hits and two runs in seven strong innings against the Reds.
"This is how I pitched [late] last year," he said. "Commanding both sides of the plate with all my pitches and letting my defense work. They hit some balls hard, but I was able to keep them off base. I'm just going to take it one step at a time and continue to grind, stay on top of my mechanics, stay on top of my delivery."
Astros: Offense still not in sync
In Saturday night's loss to the Phils, it appeared the Astros' bats had turned the corner from their early season woes. Facing Roy Halladay on Sunday, however, was not what the doctor ordered. He held the Astros to one run, while striking out eight. ... Michael Bourn, however, did turn in a 2-for-4 effort, raising his average to .318 on the young season.
Cardinals: Holliday earning his contract early
The season is barely a week old, but Matt Holliday has gotten off to a monster start for the Cardinals. The slugger is 11-for-26 with three home runs and six RBIs. His 11 hits are more than any other Cardinal. His third home run of the season followed one by Pujols in the top of the ninth inning Sunday to tie the game at 7 against Trevor Hoffman and the Brewers. The Cardinals lost, 8-7, on a walk-off homer by Casey McGehee in the bottom of the frame.
Pence has hit Wainwright well, with nine hits in 26 career at-bats. ... The Cards won the season series between the clubs last year, taking nine of 15. ... Five of Houston's next six games will take place in the daytime. The Astros were 24-23 in day games last season.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.