Tough road trip has stop off in Washington

Tough trip has Washington stop off

HOUSTON -- A three-game series in Houston is no picnic. A weekend three-gamer on the road against the World Series champion Phillies, also not a lot of fun. That would be a plenty tough road trip, if it were just the way the schedule-makers had laid it out.

Instead, there's one more stop in between for the Cardinals this week. On what was originally supposed to be an off-day, St. Louis will stop off in Washington for a single makeup game at Nationals Park on Thursday night. The game was initially slated for May 3, but was rained out.

So the Cardinals fly from Houston to Washington late Wednesday night. They'll show up at the park, bags in hand ready for the next trip, on Thursday afternoon. Then they'll get on a train late Thursday night and head up to Philadelphia.

In what's already been a grinding season, this one stands out -- especially for a team that has now lost three in a row.

"Before the game, we're going to be all dragging and everything, but when the game comes on, everybody's going to be ready to go," said closer Ryan Franklin. "I don't think it's going to show in that aspect."

The Cards will send Opening Day starter Adam Wainwright to the mound, which should help their chances of ending their slide. Washington will counter with Collin Balester, who will be making his big league debut.

Unfamiliar pitchers have been a pain for the Cardinals at times, so although they miss impressive youngster Jordan Zimmermann, Balester could present his own set of challenges.

Either way, though, good or bad, it will be a short stay in the nation's capital.

Pitching matchup
STL: RHP Adam Wainwright (10-6, 3.01 ERA)
Wainwright was a tough-luck loser on Saturday night when he gave up two runs and five hits in seven innings but fell to Arizona ace Dan Haren. Wainwright pitched well, giving up his first run on a bloop single to center and his second on a wind-aided home run to the right-field corner. The workhorse has gone at least seven innings in five straight starts, and the Cardinals are 3-2 in that span. He has not faced Washington this year.

WSH: RHP Collin Balester (Major League debut)
Balester, who was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse following Wednesday's game, will get the starting nod in Thursday's makeup game after Zimmermann was placed the 15-day disabled list with right elbow discomfort. Balester went 6-4 with a 3.38 ERA in his past 12 starts with Syracuse. Over that period, he posted 41 strikeouts and a .274 batting average against in 69.1 innings. Overall, Balester went 7-9 with a 4.35 ERA in 19 Triple-A starts.

Tidbits
Ryan Zimmerman is 5-for-12 with three doubles against Wainwright. ... Nick Johnson is 5-for-11 against Cardinals closer Franklin. ... Albert Pujols is 6-for-12 with four extra-base hits in his career at Nationals Park. ... The Cardinals have lost three straight. They've only had one longer losing streak this year -- five in a row from June 5-9.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FS-M

On radio
• KTRS 550

Up next
• Friday: Cardinals (Joel Pineiro, 8-9, 3.09) at Phillies (J.A. Happ, 7-0, 2.68), 6:05 p.m. CT
• Saturday: Cardinals (Kyle Lohse, 4-6, 4.21) at Phillies (Rodrigo Lopez, 2-0, 2.60), 3:05 p.m. CT
• Sunday: Cardinals (Todd Wellemeyer, 7-8, 5.68) at Phillies (Joe Blanton, 6-4, 4.24), 12:35 p.m. CT

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.