HOUSTON (AP) - The Houston Astros created plenty of scoring chances, and that's the one hopeful sign manager Brad Mills took away from his team's 7-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night.
Carlos Lee hit a two-run homer and Hunter Pence extended his hitting streak to 18 games. But Houston stranded 13 runners and twice left the bases loaded.
The Astros have lost four in a row and left a total of 37 runners on base during the skid. Houston came into the game with the NL's second-best batting average with runners in scoring position (.271), and Mills is confident that his team will start converting those chances again soon.
``Yeah, we left some guys on base again,' Mills said. ``At the same time, we're happy that the opportunities are presenting themselves. When we get in a situation where those opportunities aren't presenting themselves, that's a completely different situation. It'll come back to where we're right where we need to be as far as getting those base hits.'
Houston starter Brett Myers (2-5) yielded six hits and five runs with four strikeouts in six innings. Former Houston star Lance Berkman hit his 13th homer of the season off Myers in the first inning and Cardinals' starter Jake Westbrook broke a 2-2 tie with a three-run double against Myers in the fourth.
``I felt like I made good pitches,' Myers said. ``I just made two bad ones, and it cost me five runs. That's pretty much the moral of the story.'
Westbrook (6-3) gave up Lee's homer, then did not allow another earned run in 5 1-3 innings. The St. Louis bullpen repeatedly avoided trouble in the later innings.
Houston loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the eighth. Fernando Salas then struck out Michael Bourn, got Clint Barmes on a shallow flyout and fanned Hunter Pence to escape the jam.
Bourn also struck out with the bases loaded in the sixth inning.
``We got that many opportunities, we've got to try to seize the moment,' Bourn said. ``I know I didn't do my part to at least get one in, in those two at_bats. That's part of it, you just have to come back the next game and try again.'
Albert Pujols homered for the fourth straight game with a solo blast to left field in the eighth. Salas allowed one run in two innings for his 11th save.
Berkman returned to the Cardinals lineup after sitting out Sunday following a cortisone shot to his wrist he injured making a diving catch last month. In his second trip to Houston since a trade last year, the slugger, who spent 12 seasons with the Astros, was greeted by a mixture of cheers and boos each time he came to the plate.
Myers allowed consecutive singles to Yadier Molina and Skip Schumaker with two outs in the fourth before intentionally walking Daniel Descalso to load the bases. Then came Westbrook's line drive to center field that put St. Louis ahead 5-2.
Myers retired the next seven batters he faced before being replaced by Sergio Escalona, who struck out Descalso before Enerio Del Rosario took over. Myers threw 83 pitches and lasted at least six innings for the 43rd time in 46 starts for the Astros.
``Myers really pitched well. All five of the runs he gave up were with two outs,' Mills said. ``At the same time, he was able to keep his pitch count down and be able to do a pretty good job of making pitches.'
Chris Johnson had an RBI double for Houston in the ninth. The Astros were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position before Johnson's at-bat.
NOTES: St. Louis right fielder Allen Craig bruised his right knee when he crashed into the fence on the right field line chasing a foul ball in the first inning. He was replaced by Jon Jay. ... Houston RHP Brandon Lyon, pitched an inning on his rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Oklahoma City. Mills said Lyon felt good after throwing 10 pitches in the inning. Lyon is on the 15-day DL with right biceps tendinitis and a partial right rotator cuff tear.
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