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PIT@STL: Westbrook allows one earned run over 7 2/3

Astros starter Dallas Keuchel considers himself a ground-ball pitcher, one perfectly content with low strikeout totals as long as he's getting outs.

On Thursday, Keuchel will duel with the Cardinals' Jake Westbrook, a pitcher who has built a substantial career around the ability to induce ground balls.

Westbrook's 2.74 ground-ball/fly-ball ratio and 73.3 ground-ball percentage lead the National League. Keuchel's GB/FB ratio is 1.02, a little above league average, even though he's been hit hard in a few starts this season.

Westbrook, who signed a contract extension for 2013 with a mutual option for '14 on Tuesday, has pitched six or more innings in each of his past 13 starts. He allowed one earned run in 7 2/3 innings against the Pirates on Friday, but took the loss.

"Against him, we'll take what we can get and move on," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said after beating Westbrook. "There isn't another team that wouldn't want him to pitch for them."

Westbrook is 2-2 with a 4.94 ERA in six career starts against Houston.

After a rough July, Keuchel has pitched better in August, posting a 3.38 ERA over three starts. He went at least six innings in each of those starts and walked three total batters.

The rookie left-hander started his Major League career with a 1.35 ERA in three starts but has lost his past five decisions.

Astros interim manager Tony DeFrancesco is winless in three games at the helm. He took over for Brad Mills, who was relieved on Saturday.

Astros: Galarraga designated for assignment
The Astros designated Armando Galarraga for assignment on Wednesday, bringing up reliever Hector Ambriz from Triple-A Oklahoma City.

The Astros signed Ambriz as a Minor League free agent on June 21. He had a 3.33 ERA in 18 games at Oklahoma City. DeFrancesco wants to use Ambriz in a seventh- or eighth-inning role.

"He's a good addition to our bullpen," DeFrancesco said. "He's a power arm, 92 to 95 [mph], with a nice breaking ball."

Galarraga had a 6.75 ERA in five starts. He was set to pitch on Saturday in New York. DeFrancesco said the team will decide on a starter in the next couple of days.

• Outfielder Justin Maxwell was scratched from Wednesday's lineup with a bruised right index finger. He pinch-ran in the eighth inning and is listed as day to day.

Cardinals: Matheny giving regulars days off
Manager Mike Matheny decided to leave third baseman David Freese off his lineup card on Wednesday, a day after giving outfielder Carlos Beltran a day off.

After Thursday's game against the Astros, the Cardinals embark on a 10-game road trip through Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Washington -- all playoff contenders.

"I think I sense fatigue in everybody in all aspects of their game right now," Matheny said. "That's just part of it. We're just trying to watch everyone carefully, see who needs [a day off] here or there. We have a tough road trip ahead of us."

Freese has started 18 of the Cardinals' 19 games in August. He is batting just .174 in the month after hitting .458 in July.

"He's been tired," Matheny said. "This was a good day to get him down and hopefully get recharged a bit." Comments