Although the team ahead of them is struggling, the St. Louis Cardinals are running out of time and opportunities in their chase for the NL wild card.
After missing a chance to move into a tie atop the wild card standings, the Cardinals will try again Tuesday night when they face the Houston Astros.St. Louis fell 5-4 in 10 innings to Houston, owner of the worst record in the major leagues, on Monday. Lance Berkman's two-run double in the eighth inning tied the score at 4 for the Cardinals, but they were beaten when Brian Bogusevic scored on Angel Sanchez's bunt.Atlanta lost to Philadelphia earlier in the night -- the Braves' third straight defeat -- keeping the Cardinals (88-72) one game back with two remaining."It's part of the game," said first baseman Albert Pujols, who had two hits Monday. "It's not like we didn't want to take advantage of those opportunities. We fought back, we still have two games left. We'll see what happens these next couple of games."St. Louis was 10 1/2 games behind Atlanta for the wild card Aug. 24, but has won 21 of 30 since. If the clubs finish in a tie, they would meet in a one-game playoff, but Berkman doesn't see that happening."I look at it like, all it takes is they lose one and we win one," he told the Cardinals' official website. "I think we win the next two games we have an excellent shot. I really feel that way."Berkman, who starred for the Astros from 1999-2010, is hitting .406 with five homers and 14 RBIs against Houston this season. All five home runs have been hit at Minute Maid Park.St. Louis is not expected to have shortstop Rafael Furcal in the final two contests after he left in the fifth inning Monday with a tight right hamstring.Acquired July 31 from the Los Angeles Dodgers, Furcal is hitting .256 with seven homers and 16 RBIs in 49 games since. The Cardinals have gone 30-19 in those contests.St. Louis has dropped three straight to the Astros (56-104) after getting off to an 8-2 start in the season series. They'll look to Jake Westbrook (12-9, 4.48 ERA) to end the skid as he tries to overcome some recent wildness.The right-hander is 2-0 with a 2.38 ERA in two starts this year versus the Astros, and 8-4 with a 3.61 ERA on the road. Westbrook, though, has issued nine of his team-high 72 walks over 9 1/3 innings in his last two starts. He had totaled nine walks in previous five games.He didn't get a decision despite a solid outing at home in his most recent outing Thursday, giving up one run in six innings before the bullpen allowed six runs in the ninth during an 8-6 loss to New York.Houston's Henry Sosa (3-5, 4.68) looks to close his first season with back-to-back wins as he faces St. Louis for the first time. The right-hander surrendered three runs and a season-high nine hits over 6 1/3 innings of a 9-6 victory over Colorado on Thursday.Acquired from San Francisco in July for veteran infielder Jeff Keppinger, Sosa also won consecutive starts Aug. 25 and 30.Carlos Lee is 3 for 5 with a homer and three RBIs off Westbrook.