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Astros beat Cardinals 4-2 to end 5-game skid

Astros beat Cardinals 4-2 to end 5-game skid

July 28th, 2011 by R.B. FALLSTROM, AP Sports Writer in News

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Jose Altuve tied a Houston Astros record by hitting safely in his first seven games. It took a little while to get his first RBI, but it was huge.

The 21-year-old rookie drove in the go-ahead run in the ninth inning with his third hit as the Astros snapped a five-game losing streak with a 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday night.

"I feel really good, not just at home plate," Altuve said. "Like I've said before, I want to prove I can play here and play hard."

Jason Bourgeois also had three hits and perhaps unintentionally helped the Astros score an insurance run on Altuve's hit when center fielder Jon Jay's off-line throw to the plate glanced off his leg. Bourgeois jumped at the last instant before the ball struck his leg and changed course en route to the backstop.

"I honestly could not see the ball coming. I was so busy trying to tell (the runner) to get down, by the time I lifted my foot up it hit one of my toes," Bourgeois said. "It's one of those things where I'm just going to kind of be quiet and hope it goes our way and it did."

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa made an unsuccessful protest that Bourgeois didn't try hard enough.

"I didn't see him do a real good job of it. You just can't stand there and let the ball hit you, you've got to let the defense make its plays," La Russa said.

Chris Carpenter worked seven strong innings for the Cardinals, who fell a half-game behind the Brewers for the NL Central lead hours after acquiring pitcher Edwin Jackson in a three-team deal with the Blue Jays and White Sox that cost them outfielder Colby Rasmus.

Matt Holliday doubled twice one day after missing Tuesday's game with a stomach virus but the Cardinals were 2 for 15 with runners in scoring position.

The Astros loaded the bases with one out in the eighth against Mitchell Boggs before Hunter Pence, making his first pinch-hit appearance of the season, grounded into a double play. Boggs (0-3) gave up five hits and two runs in 1 2-3 innings.

Altuve, a second baseman, is 11 for 26 (.423) since being called up from Double-A Corpus Christi and matched Russ Johnson's seven-game streak as a rookie in 1997. Altuve had been leading all minor leaguers with a .389 average.

"I don't know exactly how many hits it is but it's not seven hits, it's a lot more," Houston manager Brad Mills said. "He's getting them in bunches and he's doing a great job at second, and that's just great to see."

Fernando Rodriguez (2-0) allowed a hit and two walks over two innings in relief of Bud Norris. Albert Pujols struck out with runners on second and third against Mark Melancon, who earned his ninth save in 12 chances.

Clint Barmes had been a career .111 hitter against St. Louis (3 for 27) before putting the Astros ahead with a two-run homer in the second. Carpenter said he was happy with the 0-2 pitch low and a bit inside.

"I don't second-guess that pitch at all," Carpenter said. "It was a good pitch."

Consecutive two-out doubles by Holliday and Jay off Norris cut the gap to one in the fourth and Yadier Molina's two-out RBI single tied it in the sixth. Michael Bourn's throw from center field to the plate was in plenty of time to catch Pujols trying to score from second, but rookie catcher Carlos Corporan couldn't handle a high bounce and went to make the tag without the ball.

Third baseman Chris Johnson started the St. Louis rally with fielding and throwing errors on Pujols' one-out bouncer.

Norris gave up one earned run in six innings, another strong start against a team he's 6-2 against for his career.

Carpenter matched his season high with eight strikeouts, allowing two runs in seven innings. He's 5-0 in his last seven starts, working seven or more innings in six of them, and needs three strikeouts for 1,000 with St. Louis.

Notes: Cardinals leadoff man Ryan Theriot, who entered in a 2-for-35 slump the previous nine games, batted second for the first time this season and was 0 for 4 with a walk. Replacement leadoff man Daniel Descalso struck out three times. ... Molina reached above the netting behind the plate to snare Norris' foul pop to end the second. ... Bourn singled twice and walked and is batting .411 (23 for 56) during a 12-game hitting streak. ... Bourn was caught stealing for the sixth time in the second, most of any active player against the Cardinals.