Cardinals 5, Astros 1

One bad inning was Bud Norris’ lament.

The St. Louis Cardinals went down in order the first two innings

against the Houston Astros’ right-hander, who helped himself with a

pickoff. But Norris struggled with his control in a four-run third,

facing 10 batters in a 5-1 loss on Wednesday night.

”It was a tough one,” Norris said. ”I made some good pitches,

I made some bad pitches. They found some holes and we weren’t able

to catch many breaks.”

Norris (2-3) was knocked out after five innings against a team

he’s dominated. He’d been 5-1 with a 1.97 ERA against the Cardinals

and 4-0 in St. Louis, while going only 17-15 overall.

Norris needed 23 pitches the first two innings and 34 in the

third, including a bases-loaded walk to Allen Craig. Not including

an intentional walk, the right-hander was behind in the count

against six and two other at-bats were consecutive first-pitch

singles by Ryan Theriot and Jon Jay.

”That’s something we’re not used to seeing,” manager Brad

Mills said. ”When you don’t have a feel, you’re going to get

behind sometimes.

”Bud’s been getting ahead, and we’ve been talking about the

economy of pitches to get him deep into ballgames.”

Kyle Lohse threw eight dominant innings to beat the for the

second time in less than a month. Jon Jay had two RBIs in a

four-run third and started a double play in the seventh with a

diving catch in center field. Pinch-hitter Pete Kozma – hitting for

the injured Lance Berkman – had an RBI double in his first career

at-bat for the Cardinals, who have won three in a row while

limiting the opposition to only three runs.

Michael Bourn and Humberto Quintero had two hits apiece for the

Astros, who have lost four in a row and totaled four runs the last

three games.

”The pitcher was throwing the ball well tonight, getting ahead

of the hitters and avoiding deep counts,” Mills said. ”Then, they

were able to make some nice defensive plays as well.

”Those things together, it’s tough to get an inning built

up.”

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa used three players in left field

and three at second base to compensate for injuries to left fielder

Matt Holliday and Berkman, and finished with only backup catcher

Gerald Laird on the bench. Holliday was removed after two innings

with a tight left quadriceps, perhaps from making a running catch

at the warning track, and Kozma pinch hit in the sixth for Berkman,

removed as a precaution with tightness in his right wrist not long

after he charged to make a diving catch in right field.

Lohse (5-2) allowed a run on six hits in eight innings, his

fourth outing of eight or more innings, and has a 2.17 ERA. He was

4-8 with a 6.55 ERA last year while battling a forearm injury that

required surgery in May.

Lohse threw seven scoreless innings at Houston on April 27 and

the run was at 13 straight before Carlos Lee doubled to begin the

seventh and scored on Chris Johnson’s single. Johnson was easily

doubled off after Jay made a nice running, diving catch of Clint

Barmes’ drive.

Albert Pujols is homerless in his last 88 at-bats, one off his

career worst at the end of the 2009 season, after going 1 for 4

with an RBI single in the third.

Craig started for the second straight game at second base, where

he has virtually no experience, and handled five chances flawlessly

before going to the outfield.

NOTES: Norris’ loss leaves Manny Parra (3-0) and Carlos Zambrano

(6-0) as the only pitchers with perfect records in St. Louis with

four or more starts. … Johnson is 7-for-16 the last five games

and has reached base safely in 10 of the last 10 plate appearances.

… Kozma, the Cardinals’ first-round pick in 2007, was recalled

earlier in the day after IF Nick Punto was placed on the DL with a

right forearm injury. Kozma finished the game at 2B. … Despite an

0-for-14 slump, Holliday leads the National League with a .358

average. Berkman is batting .349. … Cardinals LPH Brian Tallet

(broken right hand) is set for a second rehab outing on Friday. …

La Russa, who returned from shingles on Monday, was uncomfortable

Wednesday, saying ”I’m itching and stinging.” … Longtime

broadcaster Milo Hamilton joined the Astros in anticipation of the

franchise’s first visit to Toronto on Friday, which will be

Hamilton’s 59th stadium.