Cardinals 3, Astros 1
Albert Pujols has really gotten the St. Louis Cardinals off to quick starts lately.
The slugger homered in the first inning for the third time in the last six games and starter Jake Westbrook made it hold up with six innings of one-run ball as the Cardinals defeated the slumping Houston Astros 3-1 on Tuesday night.
Pujols hit the first pitch he saw from Houston starter Brett Myers on a line to left center field. The ball appeared to hit the top of the wall, but was ruled a home run by third base umpire Mike DiMuro. Houston center fielder Michael Bourn and left fielder Carlos Lee rushed in to dispute the call, which was subsequently reviewed by replay and upheld for Pujols' 23rd homer.
''It was tough for me to see, but the whole reason I thought it was a homer is it bounced like 10 yards over his head,'' Pujols said. ''I thought it hit the concrete off the pad.''
Crew chief Jim Reynolds said that is exactly what happened.
''Once the replay that we looked at showed that it hit the concrete behind it, then it's a home run,'''' Reynolds said.
Pujols had no problem with the play going under review.
''I think that's their job when you have a call like that,'' Pujols said. ''They go inside and have a better view. If it wouldn't have been a home run they would have (changed) the call.''
Despite the four minute delay to review the call, St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said he was never concerned.
''We had a good feeling he (DiMuro) had made the right call,'' La Russa said.
David Freese later cleared the fence with ease on an opposite field shot for the Cardinals, who have won five of six.
The Astros are going in the other direction. Houston fell to 0-5 on its season-long, 10-game road trip and 0-4 at Busch Stadium.
''It seems like things are working against us,'' Houston manager Brad Mills said.
Lee had an RBI single in the third for Houston's only run. He drove in Bourn, who had doubled to extend his hitting streak to 11 games.
Houston had plenty of chances against Westbrook (9-4), who allowed seven hits and a walk in his six innings. But the Astros went 2-for-17 with runners on base and 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
Westbrook allowed just the one run on seven hits over six innings of work.
''The Astros have a good hitting team and a lot of guys who have done good against me,'' Westbrook said. ''I was able to battle through and get to the sixth.''
Fernando Salas struck out the side in the ninth for his 19th save in 22 opportunities.
Myers (3-11) settled down after the Pujols' blast, allowing just Freese's solo shot with two-out in the sixth. He gave up 11 hits but just the three runs with no walks and four strikeouts in eight innings of work while falling to 0-4 in the month of July.
''It's an example of how things have been going for us,'' Myers said.
Notes: Cardinals second baseman Skip Schumaker is batting .368 in July (21-for-57). ... Houston's Jose Altuve reached on an infield single in the first. Altuve has now hit safely in his first six Major League games, one shy of Russ Johnson's team record of seven games to start a career set in 1997. ... Cardinals outfielder Lance Berkman was back in the lineup after missing a game to rest a sore shoulder, but left before the start of the fifth inning after going 0-for-2 to snap an eight-game hitting streak. ... Bourn has been one bright spot on the trip. He stole his Major League leading 38th base Tuesday and is 10-for-23 in his last five games (.476).