Lee HR lifts Astros over Cards

Houston’s Carlos Lee admits to feeling more focused when batting with runners on base.

St. Louis right-hander Kyle Lohse is starting to feel as if Lee simply has his number.

Lee’s three-run homer lifted the Astros to a 3-2 win over the Cardinals on Monday night.

“Carlos Lee, whatever it is, he feels comfortable against me,” Lohse said. “I was trying to pitch it down and out and I pretty much pitched it there. Most people are not going to hit that ball, but against me he sees the ball like someone’s telegraphing it exactly where it’s going to be.”

The home run was the fifth of Lee’s career against Lohse, the most of any player. Lee has a career .352 average against Lohse, who made his second start since coming off the disabled list.

Houston was trailing 2-0 when Lee followed Miguel Tejada‘s single and a walk by Lance Berkman with a shot to deep left field in the fourth inning.

“I concentrate a lot more (with men on),” Lee said. “Sometimes I kind of get away from my game with nobody on … but with people on base, I can’t explain it, but everything kind of gets in a tunnel and I concentrate and be real patient about it and try to get a good pitch to hit.”

It was the first game of a three-game series between NL Central foes and key set for a Houston team looking to gain ground on the division-leading Cardinals.

“When we get a victory over the first-place team in our division it feels good,” Tejada said. “We all have confidence … and we know we can get it.”

Brian Moehler (7-5) allowed six hits and two runs with five strikeouts in 6 1-3 innings to improve his perfect career record against the Cardinals to 5-0.

LaTroy Hawkins gave up two hits in the eighth before closer Jose Valverde pitched a scoreless ninth for his 10th save.

Yadier Molina singled in a pair of runs in the fourth to put St. Louis ahead 2-0. That hit came after a single by Ryan Ludwick and a double by Rick Ankiel.

Berkman had a double and scored a run in his return to the lineup after missing three games with a left calf strain. He said before the game that he was still sore but that he felt good enough to play. His leg still appeared a bit tender as he trotted from first to second on his double.

Skip Schumaker was given a ground-rule double with one out in the fifth inning when a fan reached down the wall from his seat in the Crawford Boxes in left field to catch his hit. Lee was miffed by the move and raised his hands in frustration before turning toward the area where the fan was and yelled at him.

“I got upset because I know how to play that wall pretty good and it was going to bounce right back to me,” Lee said. “If he’s going to try to go to second I can hold him or have a play at second where we could get an out. But when he reached, he killed us right there.”

Tejada made a nifty diving catch for the second out before the Astros intentionally walked Albert Pujols. It was his 34th intentional walk of the season, tying the team record he set last year.

Houston got out of the inning when Michael Bourn dashed up the hill in center field to grab a long fly by Ludwick.

“I knew I hit it good,” Ludwick said. “I didn’t know if it was going to be good enough.”

Lohse (4-6) allowed five hits and three runs in seven innings. He struck out five and walked two.

“Lohse pitched very well,” St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. “The big deal is not that he gave up the home run, it’s that we only got two runs. He pitched a winning game. We just didn’t do enough offensively.”


Astros C Ivan Rodriguez changed his number from 12 to 77 on Monday. Rodriguez has worn No. 7 for the majority of his career, but had to choose another number when he signed with Houston because No. 7 is retired in Houston for Craig Biggio. He decided if he couldn’t wear one 7 he’d wear two. “I was missing my number,” Rodriguez said. “Seven is a lucky number. Everybody knows me for No. 7.” … The Astros wore caps adorned with the Apollo 11 patch on Monday to commemorate the 40th anniversary of man’s first landing on the moon. The night also featured astronaut Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger singing the national anthem and a message from an astronaut on the international space station that was played on the video board.