HOUSTON (AP) - The Houston Astros failed to convert their scoring chances early in the game. The St. Louis Cardinals took full advantage of their opportunities.
Lance Berkman broke a tie with an RBI single and pinch-hitter Daniel Descalso had a two-run double in St. Louis' five-run sixth in the Cardinals' 9-2 victory Thursday night.
Berkman, the former Astro who hit a solo homer to break up Bud Norris' no-hit bid in the seventh inning in the Cardinals' 4-1 loss Wednesday night, snapped a 1-1 tie with a single off the scoreboard in left after Jon Jay singled and Albert Pujols drew a walk off J.A. Happ (3-8).
Mark Hamilton's fielder's choice grounder to second baseman Jeff Keppinger scored Pujols, and Wilton Lopez's bases-loaded walk brought home Hamilton. Then, Descalso delivered the two-run double to cap the inning.
``It's frustrating,' Happ said. ``Six or seven games in a row I start the game and I feel like I'm going to go seven or eight innings. Whatever my terrible record, whatever my terrible ERA is, it doesn't make sense. It's not the pitcher I am. I'm going to find a way to figure it out. I felt good and just left a few balls up in the sixth inning and the rest is history.'
Berkman added his 15th homer in the ninth.
``I've got a different uniform on, but it's still a great place to hit,' Berkman said. ``I'm just trying not to make an out. I'll enjoy it and try to get ready for the game tomorrow.'
In six games at Minute Maid this season, Berkman is hitting .480 with five home runs and 12 RBIs.
The Astros did little to boost their chances when the game was still winnable.
They were punchless with runners in scoring position, blowing a bases-loaded chance to take the lead in the third inning and finishing the game 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position.
``The first five innings, Happ threw the ball extremely well and worked out of some things,' Astros manager Brad Mills said. ``Offensively, we had some opportunities early in the game. We had our opportunities.'
Astros outfielder Hunter Pence extended his career best and major league-leading hitting streak to 20 games with a single in the first inning. He finished 2 for 4, but his 10th multihit game during the streak wasn't enough to prevent his team from losing for the fifth time in six games.
Pence's 20-game streak is the longest of his career and the Astros' longest since Miguel Tejada hit in 21 straight games in 2009. It was little consolation.
``It's part of the game,' Pence said. ``Sometimes you get them, sometimes they get you out.'
Ryan Theriot, whose hitting streak was snapped at 20 on Wednesday night, had a double and his first homer for St. Louis. He's been watching Berkman.
``Lance has had a great year and I don't think he's just picking on the Astros, he's picking on everybody,' Theriot said. ``He's swung the bat well and been consistent particularly well here but he's played a lot of games here and he's comfortable here.'
Lance Lynn (1-1) benefited from the Cardinals' big inning. He pitched five innings, allowed six hits and one run. He walked three and struck out three.
``The first three innings felt like the longest innings of my life,' Lynn said. ``After that I started getting into a rhythm and throwing more strikes and throwing good pitches. I stopped giving them pitches to hit.'
NOTES: St. Louis' Tony La Russa will manage his 5,000th game Friday night at Milwaukee. He will join Connie Mack (7,755) as the only manager or coach in American professional sports history to reach 5,000 games. ... Pujols has hit for extra bases in six straight games. He had his 435th double in the seventh inning to break a tie for second with Hall of Famer Lou Brock on the Cardinals' career list.
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