(Sports Network) - Right-hander Lance Lynn begins the final-week drive toward
a playoff spot for the St. Louis Cardinals tonight when they visit the Houston
Astros to open a three-game series at Minute Maid Park.
The Cardinals hit the regular season's final Monday with a 2 1/2-game lead
over Milwaukee in the National League wild card standings in the chase for the
second of two available berths.
St. Louis, of course, won a wild card spot last season and charged through the
playoffs for its second World Series title in five years.
Lynn, a 24-year-old from Illinois, enters the game on a personal three-game
win streak since Sept. 7, when he dropped a 5-4 decision to the Brewers.
He tossed an inning of scoreless relief against Milwaukee to record a 5-4 win
on Sept. 9, then downed the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Astros in consecutive
starts on Sept. 13 and 19.
He allowed just three hits in 6 1/3 scoreless innings in the 5-0 defeat of
Houston, which raised his career record against the Astros to 3-0 in four
appearances and lowered his earned run average against them to 1.47.
Lynn is 8-3 in 19 appearances away from home in 2012.
Houston replies with lefty Fernando Abad, who's lost five consecutive starts
after opening the season with 30 straight relief outings.
Abad posted a 3.62 ERA in 23 1/3 innings across the 30 bullpen outings, then
debuted as a starter with a 3-1 loss to the New York Mets on Aug. 25.
He's failed to pitch more than five innings in any of four starts since while
losing to Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, the Chicago Cubs and the Cardinals.
Against St. Louis, he pitched five innings, allowed six hits and three runs
and lost a 4-1 decision on Sept. 18.
In six career meetings with the Cardinals, he's 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA.
On Sunday in Chicago, Pete Kozma homered and drove in a pair, Allen Craig
added a two-run double and the Cardinals downed the Cubs, 6-3, in the rubber
match of a three-game series.
Kyle Lohse (16-3) gave up three runs on five hits over six innings and set a
career-high for wins in a season.
David Freese and Carlos Beltran had an RBI apiece for the Cardinals.
In Houston, A.J. Burnett tossed eight outstanding innings as the Pittsburgh
Pirates snapped a five-game slide with an 8-1 thumping of the Astros in the
finale of a three-game series.
Jordan Lyles (4-12) was knocked around for three runs on six hits with a walk
and four strikeouts over four-plus innings for the Astros, who had their two-
game winning streak snapped.
Scott Moore accounted for Houston's lone run with a home run.
The Cardinals won nine of the first 12 games between the teams in 2012,
including eight in a row since June 6. St. Louis won the season series in
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