Houston Astros vs. St. Louis Cardinals Preview and Pick – Oswalt vs. Lohse

Houston Astros (30-24) - Roy Oswalt -110, 9 O/U at St. Louis Cardinals (31-23) - Kyle Lohse -110, 9 O/U, Busch Stadium, 8:15 PM EST, Thursday
by Badger of Predictem.com

The Houston Astros and the St. Louis Cardinals will continue their battle for second place in the National League Central when they play the rubber match game in the finale of their series Thursday at Busch Stadium.

The Astros hope that staff ace Roy Oswalt continues his control of the Cardinals when he faces off against Kyle Lohse in the finale.

Baseball Oddsmakers opened the game as a pick em, with both teams listed as -110 favorites on the moneyline (or -105 each if you bet on a dime line). The over/under total opened at 9 but has already dropped to 8.5 at some offshore sportsbooks.

Oswalt (4-4, 5.61) has simply owned the Cardinals throughout his career in the big leagues. In 28 games throughout his career Oswalt is 11-5 with a 2.91 ERA, but something must have clicked a few years ago because he is 7-0 with a meager 1.56 ERA in his last 12 starts against the Cards dating back to the 2005 season.

The timing couldnt be more perfect for Oswalt and the Astros too, since the righty was knocked around for five runs and 11 hits in six innings of work against the Phillies in his last start (a 7-5 loss). Hell need to rebound if the Astros hope to climb back into a second- place tie with the Cards.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals are hoping to build off of a dominating start from Adam Wainwright last night in the Cards 6-1 victory. Next up in the rotation is Lohse, who was winless in May until a six inning, six-hit shutout effort in a 4-0 victory over the Dodgers last Saturday.

Lohse has already beaten the Astros once this season, a strong six- inning, one-run outing back on April 27th in a 5-1 Cardinals victory. However, in six career games versus St. Louis Lohse is only 2-4 with a 3.51 ERA.

Lohse will have to look out for big outfielder Carlos Lee, as Lee is a .370 hitter versus him with three bombs and six doubles. Lee will hope to team up with Lance Berkman to give the Astros one-two punch at the dish. Berkman is still hitting .381 on the season, but has been mostly held in check (2-for-7, no extra base hits) in the series so far.

The Cardinals will be looking for someone other than Albert Pujols to carry a big stick at the plate. Pujols has three homers and five doubles in his career versus Oswalt, but a majority of the Cards regular players are struggling at the plate lately (Troy Glaus 1- for-15, Rick Ankiel 2-for-13, Ryan Ludwick 1-for-9).

So far in 2008 the Cardinals have owned the series versus their NL Central rival, winning five of the eight games theyve played already including three of five at Busch Stadium. However, six of the eight games so far have come in under the total, a trend both Oswalt and Lohse hope to continue tonight.

Badgers Pick: Im going with the historical trend tonight and taking Oswalt to continue his mastery of the Cardinals. At the low price of -105, Ill take Oswalt over Lohse any day. Take the Astros tonight.