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Astros try to beat Marquis again

Sep 22, 2006 - 1:13 PM St Louis (80-77) at Houston (74-78) 7:05 pm EDT

HOUSTON (Ticker) - Nine days ago, the Houston Astros knocked out Jason Marquis early. On Friday, they try to do it again in the second contest of a four-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals.

On September 13, Marquis was pitching on three days' rest and the Astros capitalized. He faced only 10 batters as they scored four runs in the first inning en route to a 5-1 victory.

Since that victory, Houston has lost four of seven and is 5 1/2 games behind the wild card-leading Los Angeles Dodgers with 10 games remaining.

Marquis (14-15, 5.82 ERA) has had a sub-par second half of the season. Since the All-Star break, he is 3-9 with a 6.27 ERA in 13 starts and has dropped his last three starts.

On Thursday, the Astros were able to defeat Chris Carpenter. Lance Berkman hit a pair of home runs, including a go-ahead shot in the bottom of the eighth against Carpenter in a 6-5 victory.

St. Louis has a magic number of five to clinch its third straight National League Central Division crown and will try to reduce it against rookie Jason Hirsh (3-4, 5.59), who is 0-3 at home.

Hirsh has not faced the Cardinals. But he has pitched into the sixth inning in his last four starts, and in each of his last two he has allowed two runs and four hits in six frames.

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