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St. Louis at Houston

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St. Louis (64-66)001000000151
Houston (60-74) «01010000x271

Berkman's homer lifts Astros to 2-1 win over Cardinals

CBSSports.com wire reports
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HOUSTON -- Matt Albers is showing the Houston Astros how badly he wants to stay in the majors.

The 24-year-old right-hander pitched seven innings of three-hit ball, Lance Berkman homered for the second consecutive game and Houston beat the St. Louis Cardinals 2-1 on Thursday.

"I felt pretty good," Albers said. "My fastball was down in the zone and I mixed my curve in. Things went pretty well for me. I think this is one of my better starts."

Albers (4-6) walked four and struck out three, shutting down the Cardinals' offense for the second time this season. He earned his first major league victory in St. Louis on May 5, giving up three hits in 7 1/3 innings in the Astros' 13-0 win.

But Albers lost his next three decisions after that, and the Astros sent him down to the minor leagues on May 24. He made nine starts at Triple-A Round Rock and impressed the team enough to earn a call-up on June 28.

Albers has made six starts since and learned something from all of them.

"I'm starting to feel more comfortable on the mound," he said. "I'm trying to just trust my stuff and try not to make too good a pitch. I needed to get my brains beat in for a while to force me to get out of some of those things."

Chad Qualls relieved Albers to start the eighth and the Cardinals got two singles, but couldn't score. Brad Lidge pitched a perfect ninth to earn his 14th save.

The Astros won for the fourth time in 11 games and took a series at Minute Maid Park for the first time since sweeping the Cubs from Aug. 6-8. Houston has won two of three since interim manager Cecil Cooper took over for Phil Garner, who was fired Monday.

Astros owner Drayton McLane also fired general manager Tim Purpura, and Cooper thinks the shakeup has rejuvenated the clubhouse.

"I feel some good vibes," Cooper said.

Joel Pineiro (3-2) lost for the first time in five starts. The Cardinals began the day two games behind first-place Chicago in the NL Central. The Cubs played second-place Milwaukee on Thursday night.

Mike Lamb walked with one out in the Astros' second and Luke Scott doubled down the left-field line to make it 1-0. Scott was tagged out trying to stretch his hit into a triple.

Pineiro led off the third with a single to left, his first hit of the season and only the third of his career. He reached third on Brendan Ryan's double and scored on David Eckstein's RBI groundout to tie it.

Berkman led off the fourth with a homer to right on Pineiro's first pitch, a changeup. Pineiro retired the next three hitters in order, but he was muttering to himself back in the dugout about the pitch he threw to Berkman.

"I'm going to be playing that pitch in my head for a few more days," Pineiro said. "Against a hitter like Berkman, he sees that ball and his eyes open up and he did some damage. You're just hoping he fouls it off or it goes somewhere else."

It was Berkman's 26th homer of the season. He also led off an inning with a homer in Wednesday's 7-0 victory and came into Thursday's game batting .412 in his last 18 games.

"You never think, in the fourth inning, that it's going to hold up," Berkman said. "But our pitching really came through."

Albers retired six in a row after walking Albert Pujols with two outs in the third. Eckstein reached on an error by shortstop Eric Bruntlett, and Rick Ankiel walked with two outs in the fifth. Albers struck out Pujols to end the inning, prompting loud cheers from the sparse crowd.

The Cardinals were just as flustered as they were on Wednesday night, when they mustered only four hits off Roy Oswalt.

"We were competing in our at-bats. Give credit to their pitchers," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said.

Houston rookie Hunter Pence, elevated to the top of the lineup Wednesday by Cooper, led off the sixth with a single. He sprinted to third when Pineiro threw a wild pickoff try that skidded past Pujols for an error.

Pineiro escaped, getting Chris Burke to pop out and retiring Berkman and Carlos Lee on grounders.

Chris Duncan pinch-hit for Pineiro in the seventh and grounded out. Albers walked Ryan with two outs, but got Eckstein on a popup.

Notes

  • Houston activated RHP Chris Sampson from the 15-day disabled list and optioned RHP Travis Driskill to Triple-A Round Rock. Sampson was 7-8 with a 4.53 ERA before going on the DL on Aug. 3 with a sprained elbow. Cooper said Sampson, who started 19 games this season, will pitch out of the bullpen the rest of the season.
  • Berkman has hit 23 of his home runs left-handed.
  • Lamb made a diving stop at third base to rob Ryan Ludwick of a hit in the fourth inning.
  • La Russa stayed stuck on 1,041 wins with the Cardinals, tied with Red Schoendienst for the club record.
  • Biggio has 3,043 career hits.
 
Copyright 2014 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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Mike Lamb just beats the throw to score the first of Houston's two runs.  (AP)
Mike Lamb just beats the throw to score the first of Houston's two runs. (AP)

Players of the Game
Houston

L. Berkman
AB 3
R 1
H 1
HR 1
RBI 1
Houston

M. Albers
IP 7.0
H 3
ER 1
BB 4
K 3
 
St. Louis Cardinals
David Eckstein, SS4011001 .290
Rick Ankiel, CF3010102 .321
Albert Pujols, 1B3000114 .319
Juan Encarnacion, RF3000114 .283
Ryan Ludwick, LF4010001 .249
Yadier Molina, C4000002 .275
Aaron Miles, 2B4000000 .297
Joel Pineiro, P2110010 .100
   a- Chris Duncan, PH1000000 .269
    Tyler Johnson, P0000000 .000
    Russ Springer, P0000000 .000
   b- Jim Edmonds, PH1000000 .251
Brendan Ryan, 3B3010110 .318
Totals3215144  
a-grounded out for Pineiro in the 7th
b-flied out for Springer in the 9th
Batting
2B - Brendan Ryan (5, Albers)
RBI - David Eckstein (25)
CS - Juan Encarnacion (2, 2nd base by Albers/Munson)
Team LOB - 8
Fielding
PB - Yadier Molina (5)
E - Joel Pineiro (2, Throwing)
St. Louis Cardinals
Joel Pineiro (L,4-3) 6522131 4.37
Tyler Johnson 1100000 4.06
Russ Springer 1100210 2.58
IBB - Berkman by Russ Springer
Pitches-Strikes - Joel Pineiro 91-58, Tyler Johnson 15-13, Russ Springer 22-12
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Joel Pineiro 5-8, Tyler Johnson 1-2, Russ Springer 1-1
Batters Faced - Joel Pineiro 22, Tyler Johnson 4, Russ Springer 6
Houston Astros
Hunter Pence, CF3010111 .323
Chris Burke, 2B3010002 .227
Lance Berkman, 1B3111102 .278
Carlos Lee, LF4000015 .304
Mike Lamb, 3B3110103 .293
Luke Scott, RF3011001 .256
Eric Bruntlett, SS3000001 .238
Eric Munson, C3010001 .259
Matt Albers, P2000021 .095
    Chad Qualls, P0000000 .000
   a- Craig Biggio, PH1010000 .254
    Brad Lidge, P0000000 .000
Totals2827234  
a-singled for Qualls in the 8th
Batting
2B - Luke Scott (25, Pineiro)
HR - Lance Berkman (26, Pineiro)
SH - Chris Burke (6)
RBI - Lance Berkman (85), Luke Scott (58)
CS - Chris Burke (3, 2nd base by Pineiro/Molina)
Team LOB - 6
Fielding
E - Eric Bruntlett (6, Misplayed grounder)
Houston Astros
Matt Albers (W,4-6) 7311430 5.36
Chad Qualls (H,18) 1200000 2.93
Brad Lidge (S,14) 1000010 3.02
IBB - Pujols by Matt Albers
WP - Matt Albers (6)
Pitches-Strikes - Matt Albers 94-57, Chad Qualls 6-5, Brad Lidge 11-7
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Matt Albers 9-9, Chad Qualls 1-2, Brad Lidge 1-1
Batters Faced - Matt Albers 28, Chad Qualls 5, Brad Lidge 3
Game Information
Attendance - 37520
Game Time - 2:30
Temperature - 73
Umpires - Home - Jim Joyce, First Base - Jim Wolf, Second Base - James Hoye, Third Base - Tim Tschida