Mulder and Oswalt face off in Game 2

Mulder and Oswalt face off in Game 2

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis tries to move one step closer to a second consecutive World Series berth while Houston seeks to even the National League Championship Series when the Cardinals and Astros tangle in Game 2 on Thursday night at Busch Stadium.

The Cardinals, after winning the opener, 5-3, Wednesday night behind ace Chris Carpenter, will send left-hander Mark Mulder to the mound against Houston's 20-game winner Roy Oswalt.

Mulder was hit on his left biceps by a line drive in the NLDS against San Diego, but expects to be ready to go.

"I can field my position," Mulder said. "If I start worrying about being ready for a line drive too soon, that means I'm not finishing my pitches and I've got to be able to do that first."

Oswalt, 20-12 with a 2.94 ERA during the regular season, is 5-4 with a 3.65 ERA lifetime against the Cardinals, but only 1-2 with a 5.21 ERA in three starts this season.

The Cardinals have been making adjustments against the right-hander and Oswalt has noticed.

"I watched some videotape from the first, probably, six times I faced them from this year, and then a little bit a part of last year. They had some different guys out there from last year," Oswalt said. "I watched a good bit of film from the last outing I had. [I've] seen some things that I could have done, maybe, to get a few quicker innings than I had. I think I ended up throwing seven innings last time, but a few guys had different approaches against me than at times before.

"[To pick up] as much as I can ... off of film is [important to] me, a lot of the charts that we get don't really show what you can do against them. It shows the [league's success] against them and I think everyone pitches different, so it's hard to get a read off what the league does against them instead of just yourself."

The last 12 teams to win Game 1 of the NLCS have advanced to the World Series. The Astros have never been to the Fall Classic.

"In our history, we've been here five times, this is only the second time we win the first game," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "I think it's huge. The format with 2-3-2, you know, you let this one get away from you and who knows what's going to happen tomorrow, and then you have three at their place."

After Thursday's game, the series moves to Minute Maid Park in Houston for at least two games -- and a Game 5, if necessary.

"We'll have our work cut out for us, we knew that, but stranger things have happened," Astros manager Phil Garner said. "This club bounces back. And we'll bounce back."

Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.