HOUSTON (AP) - The Houston Astros had another chance to play spoiler Tuesday night, and quickly built a five-run lead against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Unfortunately for Atlanta, it didn't last.
The Cardinals chased Houston starter Henry Sosa in the fourth inning and pounded the Astros bullpen in a 13-6 victory that elevated them into a tie with the sliding Braves for the NL wild-card lead.
Pinch-hitter Ryan Theriot delivered a tiebreaking two-run triple in the seventh, sending Houston to its club-record 49th home loss of the season.
Atlanta lost 7-1 to Philadelphia, pushing the race for the NL's final playoff spot to the final day of the regular season. If the teams are tied after Wednesday's game, St. Louis will host a one-game playoff on Thursday night.
``Just look at what they have done the last month; we knew they were not going to give up,' Houston's Brian Bogusevic said. ``They have not given up the whole month of September, so we knew they weren't going to just because they were down a couple of runs.
``We tried to hang with them.'
The Astros built a 5-0 lead and appeared to be headed for a second straight win against the surging Cardinals. But St. Louis scored five times in the fourth and erased a 6-5 deficit with a four-run seventh.
Lance Berkman hit a two-out single and scored on Allen Craig's tying double. Craig entered the game in the third inning when Matt Holliday departed with discomfort in his right hand.
Yadier Molina walked before Theriot's hit made it 8-6.
Nick Punto, who had four hits, doubled in Theriot in the seventh and had a solo homer in the ninth. Craig padded the lead with a three-run homer to the Crawford Boxes in left field in the eighth.
Eduardo Sanchez (3-1) struck out two in 1 1-3 innings for the win in a game that included seven Cardinals relievers following an early exit by Jake Westbrook.
Skip Schumaker drove in three runs in the fourth, and Berkman had three hits and scored three times. The crowd booed loudly when Berkman, the longtime Astros star, scored in the seventh.
The Astros jumped on Westbrook for seven hits and five runs in 2 1-3 innings to take the early lead.
Enerio Del Rosario (0-3) yielded two hits and three runs for the loss.
Bogusevic singled to start the Astros fifth before consecutive walks loaded the bases. Bogusevic scored when Jimmy Paredes grounded into a double play, giving Houston a 6-5 lead.
David Freese walked to start the big fourth inning by St. Louis. Berkman singled with one out, and the runners advanced on a wild pitch by Sosa.
Craig then walked before Molina singled in a run and Schumaker cleared the bases with a double to center, chasing Sosa. David Carpenter came in and allowed Jon Jay's tying sacrifice fly later in the inning.
``There is no doubt that (Schumaker's hit) brought them to life,' Houston manager Brad Mills said. ``We really let it kind of get away from us (in the sixth) when they were able to score four more runs.'
The Astros scored four times in the third. Brett Wallace had a two-run single and Paredes added a two-run triple that rolled up on the corner of Tal's Hill in center field.
Sosa was charged with five runs and five hits in 3 1-3 innings in his final start of the season. He finished his first stint in the majors with three wins, five losses and a 5.32 ERA.
``I just wanted the game so bad, but I couldn't get it,' Sosa said. ``I don't think I have done what I wanted to do overall, but I think it's not too bad for me here. I think I have done a good job competing for a (spot) next year.'
Cardinals star Albert Pujols got hit on the right elbow by a ball that glanced off his bat for a foul in the seventh. He writhed in pain for a minute before trainers came and checked on him. He continued his at-bat after a short delay, flew out to left field and played the rest of the game.
NOTES: Holliday returned to the Cardinals on Saturday after missing nine games with a tendon injury on his right middle finger. He is listed as day to day. ... Cardinals SS Rafael Furcal, who left Monday's game in the fifth inning with tightness in his left hamstring, was held out. Manager Tony La Russa said Furcal would not return for Wednesday's game, but he wasn't sure about his availability if the Cardinals play past that game. ... Houston closer Mark Melancon and his wife Mary Catherine had a girl named Brooklyn Marie on Tuesday. ... Chris Carpenter pitches for the Cardinals against Brett Myers in the regular-season finale on Wednesday. Myers has won four straight games and has a 1.24 ERA in his last five starts. Carpenter is 7-5 in his career against the Astros, but hasn't won in Houston since 2005.
The Associated Press News Service
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