Astros Lose Fifth In A Row, Fall To Cardinals 4-2

SB Nation Houston's coverage of the Cardinals-Astros series from May 18th-19th, 2011

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Dead Fish Flopping: Astros Drop Fifth Straight

I would love to tell you that there were signs of encouragement in this game for Astros fans, but I fell asleep watching the thing after the Astros let Kyle McClellan start off with three perfect innings. Yes, that’s right, another day, another terrible offensive output. The Astros scored two runs, one on a sac fly, and one on a wild pitch. Telling yourself at this point that the Astros are running into a stretch of “good pitching” is delusional: this is just a bad offensive team. They had some hot BABIP to start the year and have been treading water ever since.

J.A. Happ pitched admirably in defeat on the surface, allowing four hits and three walks in six innings and striking out eight. Against a Cardinals lineup that started just two of their top four hitters though? That wasn’t exactly a sterling outing. Albert Pujols went hitless, but Allen Craig’s three hits and Gerald Laird’s 2 RBI double was all the scoring St. Louis would need against Houston today.

They’ll turn their sights to Toronto, where exhibition baseball will begin again. Jo Jo Reyes hasn’t won a game since 2008, but he’ll have his best chance in awhile as the Blue Jays draw Aneury Rodriguez in game one of the series. Fans in the left field bleachers may want to wear hardhats as HR champion Jose Bautista gets to face the Astros pitching staff.


Astros Try To Snap Another Four Game Losing Streak In St. Louis

(Sports Network) – The suddenly-streaking St. Louis Cardinals could be without two of their top hitters when they go for a two-game sweep of the Houston Astros this afternoon from Busch Stadium.

Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman both departed Wednesday’s 5-1 win over the Astros and are not expected to be in today’s starting lineup. Holliday experienced tightness in his left quadriceps in the third inning and said that he won’t know his status until he runs. Berkman departed in the fifth inning with a jammed wrist after making a great diving catch in right field. X-rays on the wrist were negative and Berkman doesn’t believe it’s too serious.

“I don’t think it’s too, too bad,” Berkman said on the team’s site. “I think it’s sprained. I think it’s more than just, ‘Oh, it’s sore,’ but I don’t think it’s as serious as being out a long time.”

The Cardinals have won three in a row and nine of 15 games to pull within a half-game of Cincinnati for the NL Central lead. In last night’s victory over the division-rival Astros, Jon Jay drove in two runs during a four-run third inning and Albert Pujols added an RBI single for St. Louis, which hasn’t won four in a row since closing out April with four straight victories. Yadier Molina had three hits for his fourth consecutive multi-hit game.

Berkman’s injury opened the door for Peter Kozma, who was recalled from Triple-A Memphis before the game and stroked an RBI double during the fifth inning in his major league debut. Kyle Lohse pushed his record to 5-2 with eight solid innings on the hill, allowing one run and six hits.

“Early on, I felt like I was kind of full on my fastball and missing a little bit, but after I got that figured out, it seemed like things got a little smoother,” Lohse said. “It’s always good to get the guys off the field as quick as possible.”

St. Louis is scheduled begin a nine-game road trip after today’s game, with visits to Kansas City, San Diego and Colorado, and will send Kyle McClellan to the mound against the ‘Stros. In his first year as a starter, McClellan is 5-1 with a 3.62 earned run average in eight games (7 starts) and is coming off his first loss of the season. He previously took the mound in Saturday’s 7-3 loss at Cincinnati and yielded four runs in six frames.

McClellan has given up four runs or more in three of his last four appearances and defeated Houston back on April 28 at Minute Maid Park. The right-hander is 1-2 with a 4.07 ERA in 18 career games (1 start) in this series.

Houston is riding a four-game losing streak and lost for the ninth time in 11 tries with last night’s four-run setback. Chris Johnson’s RBI single to score Carlos Lee in the seventh inning accounted for the Houston scoring, while starter Bud Norris dropped to 2-3 for allowing all five runs in five innings.

“They were swinging the bats pretty early in the counts, and I’m sure that was probably part of their game plan,” Norris said. “That’s a good-hitting lineup, and we’ve been fortunate enough to do so well against them the last couple of times. You can’t hold them down forever.”

The Astros are 0-3 on a seven-game road trip through Atlanta, St. Louis and Toronto, and have the worst record in the National League at 15-28.

Toeing the rubber for Houston Thursday will be J.A. Happ. Happ is 2-0 in three outings since a three-start losing streak and is coming off two solid starts in which he yielded a pair of runs in six innings. The lefty put that line up in Saturday’s 7-3 triumph over the New York Mets and moved within one win of the .500 mark at 3-4 in eight starts with a 5.40 ERA.

Happ lost to St. Louis on April 27 even though he limited the Cardinals to two runs in five innings of a 6-5 decision. He is 1-3 with a 5.27 ERA in five career starts against the Cardinals.

St. Louis won two of three meetings with Houston in late April, but the Astros are still a dominant 11-6 in the previous 17 matchups between the clubs.


Astros Lose Fourth In A Row As Cards Finally Get To Norris

St. Louis, MO (Sports Network) – Kyle Lohse went eight strong innings to lead the St. Louis Cardinals past the Houston Astros, 5-1, in the opener of a two- game set from Busch Stadium.

Lohse (5-2) allowed one run while scattering six hits and striking out three.

Jon Jay went 2-for-4 and knocked in two during a decisive four-run third inning, as the Cardinals won their third straight.

Bud Norris (2-3) was responsible for Houston’s fourth straight loss. He allowed five runs and seven hits in five innings.

Three separate Astros threw scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Humberto Quintero and Michael Bourn each had two hits—the rest of the lineup went 2-24 with a walk.

The Astros will try to avoid their second straight two game sweep tomorrow at 12:45 PM CT. J.A. Happ (3-4, 5.40) will again look to play the role of stopper against Kyle McClellan (5-1, 3.62).


Bud Norris Tries To Continue Mastery Of Cardinals

(Sports Network) - The confidence level in the St. Louis Cardinals clubhouse just got a boost after sweeping the Philadelphia Phillies in two games at Busch Stadium. Now the NL's worst team invades the Gateway City, as the Houston Astros begin a two-game set tonight with the host Cardinals.

The Cardinals ended a three-game losing streak with Monday's win over the Phillies, then recorded the sweep after last night's 2-1 victory thanks to Lance Berkman's game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning. Phils reliever Danys Baez loaded the bases in the pivotal frame and got Matt Holliday to ground into a fielder's choice for the first out. The bags were still full when J.C. Romero came on for Baez and promptly gave up the game-winning hit to Berkman.

"I just wanted to see the ball and try to, even if you get beat a little bit, still hit a fly ball and try to get that guy in," Berkman said.

Yadier Molina went 3-for-4 with an RBI, while Albert Pujols also had three hits and Berkman, Ryan Theriot and Jon Jay finished with two hits apiece for the Cardinals, who had a 13-5 advantage in hits and got eight strong innings from starter Jaime Garcia. Garcia gave up one unearned run in the no-decision and Fernando Salas collected the victory with a scoreless top of the ninth.

The Cardinals are 1 1/2 games behind Cincinnati for the NL Central lead and have won seven of their last 12 contests.

Since winning four straight starts Cardinals pitcher Kyle Lohse is just 0-1 with a 3.60 earned run average in his past three outings -- all St. Louis losses. Lohse will take the ball tonight after not factoring in the outcome of Friday's 6-5 loss at Cincinnati. He allowed two runs over six innings to remain at 4-2 in eight starts with a 2.31 ERA.

Lohse, a right-hander, defeated Houston on April 27 at Minute Maid Park, hurling seven shutout innings in a 6-5 win. He is 7-7 in 15 career appearances, 14 of which have been starts, against the Astros with a 2.96 ERA over that span.

Houston has the worst record in the National League at 15-27 and began a seven-game road trip by losing two meetings with the Atlanta Braves. In Tuesday's 3-1 loss in 11 innings, Braves catcher Brian McCann stroked a game- winning two-run homer off of Astros reliever Jeff Fulchino with one out in the bottom of the 11th. McCann also homered off of Mark Melancon in the ninth to even the score at 1-1.

The Astros wasted eight scoreless innings from Wandy Rodriguez, who struck out six batters, allowed five hits and walked two in the no-decision. Hunter Pence and Clint Barmes both had two hits, while Brett Wallace accounted for the Houston scoring with a home run in the seventh inning.

"It was definitely tough," Wallace said about the loss. "We grinded out the game. We are just trying to do everything we can to get better and get some more wins. That one just slipped away from us. We have to learn from it and move on."

Carlos Lee went 0-for-4 to have his 10-game hitting streak halted.

Houston will also visit Toronto for three games on the current trek and will send Bud Norris to the St. Louis mound tonight. Norris is 2-2 with a 3.42 earned run average in eight starts this season and previously pitched in Friday's 6-4 setback to the New York Mets in which he allowed four runs in 7 1/3 innings for the no-decision.

Norris faced the Cardinals in a 6-5 win on April 26 at home and permitted three unearned runs through six frames in a no-decision. The right-hander has enjoyed success against the Cardinals in his career as evidenced by his 5-1 mark and 1.97 ERA over seven starts. Houston hopes that carries over into Wednesday's contest.

St. Louis won two of three meetings with Houston in late April, but the Astros are still a dominant 11-5 in the previous 16 matchups between the clubs.

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