With three games remaining and a one-game deficit in the NL wild-card race, the St. Louis Cardinals have little room for error.
Fortunately for the Cardinals, they'll be facing the major league-worst Houston Astros.Battling for a spot in the playoffs, the Cardinals open a three-game series in Houston on Monday night.St. Louis (88-71) is just one-game behind Atlanta for the wild card after winning its final two games against the Chicago Cubs over the weekend.The Cardinals, who rallied for a 2-1 victory Saturday, got a tiebreaking home run from Rafael Furcal in the eighth inning en route to a 3-2 win Sunday."It's a 162-game season and we've had some good games and we've had some bad games," said catcher Yadier Molina, who homered in the seventh to pull St. Louis even and is hitting .447 in his last 10 games. "Right now, we're playing pretty good baseball."The Braves conclude their regular season at home against major league-best Philadelphia, which has the best record in the major leagues. The Cardinals, meanwhile, visit an Astros team wrapping up the worst season in franchise history."We're thrilled," manager Tony La Russa told the Cardinals' official website. "Considering a month ago we may not have any fun this time of year, we're having fun. And we know exactly what we've got to do."St. Louis' rotation has a 1.30 ERA over its last five games, with Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse and Edwin Jackson giving up four total runs in 21 innings this weekend.The Cardinals have won four of six at Minute Maid Park while going 8-4 against Houston (55-104) overall, and a rotation that's 8-2 with a 2.99 ERA in those games has certainly made a difference.Jaime Garcia (13-7, 3.45 ERA), meanwhile, has been doing his part down the stretch.Garcia has won his last three decisions and the Cardinals have won his last four starts, during which he has a 1.69 ERA. He gave up four unearned runs over 7 2/3 innings in a 6-5 win over the Mets on Wednesday."What Jaime did to not lose his concentration and keep competing was as impressive as anything he's done for a couple years," La Russa said. "And he's done a lot of impressive things."However, the left-hander is 0-3 with a 5.91 ERA in four career starts against the Astros -- three of which have come in 2011. Jason Bourgeois is 5 for 9 with three doubles against Garcia while Carlos Lee is 4 for 10 with a homer.Houston split a four-game weekend series against Colorado, dropping the final two -- including a 19-3 defeat Sunday.Wandy Rodriguez (11-11, 3.51) will take the mound in the opener as he wraps up his season.Rodriguez gave up two runs in seven innings of a 2-0 loss to Cincinnati on Wednesday. He has not allowed more than three earned runs in his last five outings.The left-hander has won his last two starts against the Cardinals, including one in July, but is 6-11 with a 3.85 ERA overall.