Astros become final team to break into win column

The Houston Astros avoided matching the worst start in franchise history, stopping an eight-game losing streak with their first win, 5-1 over the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday behind Bud Norris’ arm and bat.

The Astros were the only winless team left in the majors and came close to tying the team’s 0-9 opening in 1983.

Norris (1-0) struck out a career-high nine and held the Cardinals without an earned run for five innings. He also got his first career RBI to put the Astros ahead for good.

Jeff Keppinger had two hits and his first three RBIs of the season, matching his career best. Michael Bourn contributed his fourth straight two-hit game and scored from first on Keppinger’s hit-and-run double in the third off Kyle Lohse (0-1).

Norris’ single gave the Astros the lead in the third. Bourn reached on a forceout and Keppinger doubled.

Five runs is one off the season high for the Astros, whose total of 19 is by far the major league low. Houston scored one unearned run in the first two games of this three-game series, and its .214 average entering the game was tied with the Indians for the worst in the majors.

Norris fanned Albert Pujols and Colby Rasmus twice each during an overpowering stint limited to five innings by 106 pitches. The Cardinals capitalized on left fielder Carlos Lee’s dropped pop fly in the fourth, and that is St. Louis’ only score against Norris in 18 innings.

Norris has won all three career starts against the Cardinals, the other two coming in the final two months of 2009, and topped his previous best of eight strikeouts. He lasted only 2 2/3 innings in his first start April 9 against the Phillies, allowing three runs on six hits and four walks in an 8-0 loss.

Keppinger had a two-run single and Pedro Feliz an RBI double in consecutive at-bats against Mitchell Boggs in the eighth to make it 5-1.

Lohse worked seven innings, allowing two runs on five hits. His only trouble came in the third when the Astros scored twice and had three hits.

Norris, 4 for 19 as a hitter for his career, gave the Astros their third lead of the season when he lined an RBI single.

Lee dropped Felipe Lopez’s easy fly that would have ended a 1-2-3 fourth, an error that helped the Cardinals end a 16-inning drought against Norris. Yadier Molina walked and David Freese followed with an RBI single to cut the Astros’ lead to 2-1.

The Cardinals passed on a scoring opportunity in the third when Lohse was stopped at third on Ryan Ludwick’s two-out, line-drive single to center.

The Astros haven’t been swept in three straight series since Sept. 13-22, 1996, by the Rockies, Braves and Marlins.

NOTES: Cardinals SS Brendan Ryan, only 2 for 24 to start the year although he’s made several big plays on defense, got a day off. … The Astros rebounded to finish 85-77 in 1983.