St. Louis at Houston

St. Louis
W: B. Looper (11-10) L: W. Williams (8-13)
HR: STL - C. Duncan (21)   HOU - None

Cards' Looper sharp, ruins Cooper's Astros managerial debut wire reports

HOUSTON -- New manager. Same old floundering Houston Astros.

Chris Duncan shook off an August slump with a three-run homer and an RBI single and the St. Louis Cardinals ruined Cecil Cooper's managerial debut with a 7-0 win over the Astros on Tuesday night.

Phil Garner was fired on Monday and replaced by Cooper after Houston limped to a 58-73 record. But the Astros looked just as bad with Cooper in charge, plagued by mediocre pitching and feeble hitting.

"This wasn't what I planned," Cooper said. "We were all excited. This kind of takes the steam out of it."

Duncan, meanwhile, snapped a 28-game home run drought with a three-run drive into the upper deck in the first inning off Houston starter Woody Williams (8-13). Duncan was hitting just .167 with only three RBI this month before Tuesday's outburst.

He worked with hitting coach Hal McRae in recent days and worked out the glitches in his swing.

"I was just jumping at it too much," Duncan said. "Hal just asked me to stay back a little more, stay behind the ball. I started seeing the ball better, my pitch selection's gotten better. Maybe I can get something started."

Rick Ankiel and Aaron Miles added RBI doubles for the Cardinals, who've won six of their last eight and got back to .500 for the first time since they were 6-6 on April 16. Earlier this month, the defending World Series champions were eight games under .500 and eight games out of first place earlier this month.

"That's really the highlight of the day," manager Tony La Russa said. "To finally get there, we ought to enjoy the moment. That's really special for this team."

St. Louis starter Braden Looper (11-10) pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing only four hits with four strikeouts. Looper has won five of his last nine starts.

The Cardinals stayed two games behind Chicago in the NL Central. The Cubs beat second-place Milwaukee 5-3 on Tuesday night.

"We're not done yet," Looper said. "It would've been easy to make excuses, but the guys in this room have continued to battle."

Williams allowed six runs on eight hits as the Astros lost for the sixth time in eight home games.

Cooper, Houston's bench coach for the past three seasons, addressed his team before batting practice on Tuesday, preaching about eliminating mistakes and playing with more enthusiasm. But second baseman Craig Biggio mishandled Ankiel's grounder as he tried to backhand it with one out in the first inning, a sign of the night to come. It was ruled an infield hit.

After Jim Edmonds singled with two outs, Duncan hammered a 3-2 changeup high into the right-field seats, his first homer in 68 at-bats.

Biggio beat out an infield hit and Hunter Pence walked leading off the Astros first. Looper then struck out Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee and Ty Wigginton lined out, a blown scoring chance typical of Houston's season.

"That first inning was everything," La Russa said.

Yadier Molina led off the second with a single and went to second on Looper's sacrifice bunt. Miles then doubled down the right-field line to make it 4-0.

Looper breezed through the first three innings, retiring the nine batters he faced after Pence walked. Berkman led off the fourth with a single to left and out later, Wigginton got hit by a pitch. Luke Scott then grounded into an inning-ending double play, killing another potential rally.

Looper has allowed four hits in each of his last four starts.

"It's been a process all along," he said. "I've taken my bumps and bruises and had my bad outings. I've had it handed to me and I've learned from that."

Ankiel and Albert Pujols hit consecutive one-out singles in the fourth, and Edmonds walked to load the bases. Cooper then made his pitching change, calling on left-hander Mark McLemore to relieve Williams.

It backfired -- Duncan and Scott Rolen lined back-to-back RBI singles to put the Cardinals up 6-0.

Houston right-hander Travis Driskill, called up from the minors last week, relieved McLemore to start the sixth and Miles led off with his second double. He went to third on David Eckstein's ground out and scored on Ankiel's double down the right-field line.

The Astros were shut out for the sixth time this season.

Cooper planned to tinker with his lineup before Wednesday's game.

"Today, I just tried to get as much feedback as I could and everyone agreed that I should just stay with the same lineup we had," he said. "Tomorrow, there will probably be a couple of changes."


  • La Russa won his 1,041st game with St. Louis, tying Red Schoendienst as the franchise's winningest manager.
  • Former Astro Russ Springer pitched a perfect eighth in relief of Looper.
  • Looper didn't allow a run for the first time since May 12.
  • Biggio got his 3,041st career hit.
Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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Braden Looper is nearly flawless in seven shutout innings, allowing four hits and one walk.  (AP)
Braden Looper is nearly flawless in seven shutout innings, allowing four hits and one walk. (AP)

Players of the Game
St. Louis

B. Looper
IP 7.0
H 4
ER 0
BB 1
K 4
St. Louis

C. Duncan
AB 5
R 1
H 3
HR 1

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St. Louis Cardinals
David Eckstein, SS5010012 .294
Rick Ankiel, RF-CF5231012 .306
Albert Pujols, 1B5130002 .322
    So Taguchi, PR-LF0000000 .295
Jim Edmonds, CF4110113 .254
    Russ Springer, P0000000 .000
    Troy Percival, P0000000 .000
Chris Duncan, LF-1B5134011 .273
Scott Rolen, 3B4011001 .265
   a- Brendan Ryan, PH-3B1000001 .327
Yadier Molina, C5120014 .282
Braden Looper, P3000014 .186
    Ryan Ludwick, RF0000000 .250
Aaron Miles, 2B4121000 .298
a-popped out for Rolen in the 9th
2B - Rick Ankiel (3, Driskill), Aaron Miles 2 (13, Williams, Driskill)
HR - Chris Duncan (21, Williams)
SH - Braden Looper (4)
RBI - Rick Ankiel (10), Chris Duncan 4 (66), Scott Rolen (58), Aaron Miles (24)
2-OUT RBI - Chris Duncan 3 (23)
Team LOB - 9
DP - Pujols-Eckstein
St. Louis Cardinals
Braden Looper (W,11-10) 7400140 4.66
Russ Springer 1000020 2.63
Troy Percival 1200010 2.39
HBP - Wigginton (by Braden Looper)
Pitches-Strikes - Braden Looper 100-66, Russ Springer 17-11, Troy Percival 20-12
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Braden Looper 7-9, Troy Percival 2-0
Batters Faced - Braden Looper 26, Russ Springer 3, Troy Percival 5
Houston Astros
Craig Biggio, 2B4010000 .252
Hunter Pence, CF3010110 .321
Lance Berkman, 1B4020012 .274
Carlos Lee, LF4000015 .305
Ty Wigginton, 3B3010012 .274
Luke Scott, RF4000023 .254
Mark Loretta, SS4010002 .279
Brad Ausmus, C3000001 .231
Woody Williams, P1000000 .075
    Mark McLemore, P0000000 .000
   a- Orlando Palmeiro, PH1000000 .237
    Travis Driskill, P0000000 .000
   b- Chris Burke, PH1000010 .225
    Brian Moehler, P0000000 .200
a-lined out for McLemore in the 5th
b-struck out for Driskill in the 8th
2B - Mark Loretta (20, Looper)
Team LOB - 7
DP - Loretta-Biggio-Berkman
Houston Astros
Woody Williams (L,8-13) 4.1866121 5.04
Mark McLemore 0.2200020 3.16
Travis Driskill 3511020 4.50
Brian Moehler 1100000 4.53
Pitches-Strikes - Woody Williams 95-69, Mark McLemore 15-10, Travis Driskill 54-39, Brian Moehler 5-4
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Woody Williams 8-3, Travis Driskill 1-6, Brian Moehler 1-1
Batters Faced - Woody Williams 22, Mark McLemore 4, Travis Driskill 14, Brian Moehler 3
Game Information
Attendance - 37915
Game Time - 2:56
Temperature - 73
Umpires - Home - James Hoye, First Base - Tim Tschida, Second Base - Jim Joyce, Third Base - Jim Wolf