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.