HOUSTON (AP) - The Astros were happy to play the spoiler role against the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday night.
Brian Bogusevic scored on Angel Sanchez's bunt in the 10th inning, giving the Houston Astros a 5-4 victory and keeping the Cardinals from moving into a tie with Atlanta in the NL wild-card race.
``To have the game be meaningful is fun for us,' Bogusevic said. ``We have to play for something. You owe it to the game in general just to play hard.'
Bogusevic charged home on Sanchez's bunt with no outs for the game-winner, rewarding closer Mark Melancon for his two-inning performance with his eight win of the season on the same night his wife was expected to deliver the couple's first baby.
``Melancon threw two innings, so we told him to go have a baby,' Astros manager Brad Mills said with a chuckle.
It marked Melancon's 11th consecutive scoreless appearance.
The result complicated St. Louis' chances at a postseason berth. The Cardinals remain one game behind Atlanta in the National League wild-card race after the Braves fell to the Philadelphia Phillies 4-2 earlier Monday.
Wandy Rodriguez pitched six-plus quality innings in his last start of the year, and Matt Downs hit his 10th home run of the season in the fourth inning.
Former Astros star Lance Berkman hit a tying two-run double off Wesley Wright in the eighth. Matt Holliday had an RBI single for St. Louis.
After Melancon retired the Cardinals for a second consecutive inning, Bogusevic doubled off St. Louis closer Octavio Dotel (3-3) and advanced on Jason Bourgeois' bunt, which Dotel could not get a handle on.
Sanchez then dropped a bunt in front of the plate, and Bogusevic charged home as Dotel mishandled his attempt to flip the ball to catcher Yadier Molina with his glove for the game-winner.
``It's a fun play, being on the bases,' Bogusevic said. ``It wasn't suicide, so you kind of have to make a little read, but it's exciting. You know it's coming and you know once you get that read that it's down, you have to go.'
Prior to the Cardinals' two-run rally in the eighth, Rodriguez looked poised to close out his season with a win. He allowed just two runs on eight hits over 6 1-3 innings. He struck out two and walked three.
Rodriguez closed the year with a team-best 11-11 record and a 3.49 ERA in 30 starts. It marked the third consecutive year Rodriguez posted double-digit wins and his ERA was the second-lowest of his career, trailing only the 3.02 mark of 2009.
``I feel very happy because I finished the season not feeling sore,' Rodriguez said. ``And today I had a quality start and that's what I look for.'
Houston starter Wandy Rodriguez pitched out of a no-out, bases-loaded jam in the fifth, getting David Freese to roll into a double play before fanning Albert Pujols.
``You look at Wandy, he battled through the whole thing,' Mills said. ``He had some runners on, and kept working around them.'
The Astros escaped more trouble in the seventh. Ryan Theriot and Jon Jay led off with singles, and Nick Punto moved up the runners with a sacrifice.
Mills brought in Wilton Lopez to relieve Rodriguez, who threw 102 pitches. Lopez then retired pinch-hitters Allen Craig and Daniel Descalso on groundouts.
The Astros improved to 5-8 against the Cardinals this season after going 10-5 in 2010.
Red-clad Cardinals fans seemed to outnumber Houston fans in the sparse crowd, and that provided incentive for the Astros.
``It's always good to shut up their side, their team, their crowd at home,' Downs said. ``They have more fans than we do, so it's always fun to shut them up when we're at home.'
The Associated Press News Service
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