(Sports Network) – Early-season standout Kyle Lohse aims for a fourth consecutive victory tonight when his St. Louis Cardinals look to bounce back in game two of a three-game set with the host Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
The Cardinals, who’ve won four straight series, were beaten late in Tuesday’s opener when Bill Hall knocked in Michael Bourn to cap Houston’s two-run ninth- inning rally in a 6-5 victory.
Lance Berkman, in his first game at Minute Maid Park as a visitor, doubled in Matt Holliday in the top of the ninth to give the Cardinals a 5-4 lead that Mitchell Boggs (0-1) gave away in the bottom half.
Chris Johnson had two hits and two RBI while Hunter Pence went 3-for-5 with a solo homer for the Astros, who have won two of three.
Daniel Descalso doubled twice, tripled and knocked in three runs to pace the Cardinals, who were coming off a weekend series win over Cincinnati.
The Astros spoiled Berkman’s storybook return to Houston, where he spent the first 11 1/2 seasons of his career before getting dealt to the Yankees at last year’s trade deadline.
Lohse, whose win totals have plummeted from 15 to 6 to 4 in his three seasons with St. Louis, got his third win of 2011 on April 21 when he threw nine innings of scoreless two-hit ball with six strikeouts in a 5-0 blanking of Washington.
The gem lowered the 32-year-old’s earned run average from 2.82 to 2.01 and dropped the opposition batting average against him to a minuscule .174 — more than 100 points lower than his .283 career clip.
In 31 1/3 innings across four starts this season, Lohse has allowed just seven runs on 19 hits with 22 strikeouts and only four walks.
Last season, in 18 starts, his ERA was 6.55 and opponents hit .336 against him.
Lohse is 6-7 in 14 career games against Houston.
For the Astros, lefty J.A. Happ makes another effort to get things going in his first full season in Houston.
The 28-year-old, acquired in the Roy Oswalt trade from Philadelphia, was 1-1 after two starts in 2011 but has dropped two subsequent outings to drop his career big-league mark to 20-12.
He was roughed up for six hits and six runs in his last start on April 21 in New York, a 9-1 loss to the Mets that saw his ERA swell to 6.94.
Happ pitched to a 3.75 ERA in 72 innings over 13 starts with the Astros last season.
He is 1-2 in four career starts against the Cardinals.
The Astros won 10 of the 15 matchups with St. Louis a year ago.