Houston at St. Louis

St. Louis
W: B. Backe (2-1) L: J. Pineiro (6-5)
S: B. Lidge (16)
HR: HOU - L. Berkman (31)   STL - None

Astros 6, Cardinals 3

CBSSports.com wire reports

ST. LOUIS -- It's been clear for a while that last year's World Series champions would be heading home in October. Now it's official.

The St. Louis Cardinals, who have lost 14 of 16, were eliminated from postseason contention on Friday night when rookie J.R. Towles' two-run double lead the Houston Astros to a 6-3 victory.

"It was academic," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "The thing that's more irritating is just the current stretch of having a tough time winning a game.

"We're right there, we just can't punch through. An at-bat here, a pitch there, it's really been tough."

Towles, who set a franchise record on Thursday with eight RBI, also made a key defensive play behind the plate for the Astros, who are 7-12 in September but have won three in a row.

The Cardinals (71-82) are assured of their first losing season since 1999. Entering this season, they were the lone NL team without a losing record in this decade.

That was no consolation to the manager.

"To have that run that many years, I don't feel better because this is the first losing year," La Russa said. "I feel worse that this is a losing year."

The Cardinals didn't go quietly.

They loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth against rookie Stephen Randolph. Brad Lidge relieved and faced pinch-hitter Albert Pujols, who hit a memorable game-winning home run off him in the 2005 NLCS. Lidge walked him on four pitches, but then got Yadier Molina on a groundout for his 16th save in 22 chances.

Pujols has missed three starts with a strained left calf muscle.

"We had a really good opportunity in the last inning with Kirk Gibson coming out from the tunnel," teammate Scott Spiezio said. "It was pretty cool, but they walked him. We gave it our best shot."

Lidge said the game plan was to get ahead of Pujols with sliders.

"Of course I'm not trying to walk him, I really am trying to throw a strike," Lidge said. "At the same time you've got to be smart when you fall behind to a guy like that in a situation like that."

Lance Berkman hit a two-run homer in a three-run first for Houston and Brandon Backe won his second straight start.

The Cardinals were down 3-2 and had runners on first and third with one out in the seventh when Towles prevented the tying run from scoring. He leaped out of his crouch to snare a high delivery from Dennis Sarfates on a 2-2 pitch to Rick Ankiel. Ankiel struck out on the next pitch and Sarfates fanned Ryan Ludwick to end the threat.

"He had to skywalk a little bit," Cooper said. "J.R. has really played well."

Towles, who had been 0-for-2 with a walk, gave the Astros a 5-2 lead with his two-run double off Ryan Franklin in a three-run eighth.

Backe (2-1) worked six innings and allowed two runs and six hits. It was the fourth start of the season for the 29-year-old right-hander, who was coming off elbow surgery last September.

Joel Pineiro (5-4) gave up three runs and four hits in the first inning then allowed four hits over the rest of his 5 2/3 innings. Unlike his last outing when the Cardinals rallied for a 4-3 victory over the Cubs, a lineup minus Pujols, Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, Chris Duncan and Juan Encarnacion wasn't able to overcome the early deficit.

Edmonds missed his fourth straight start with a groin injury and grounded out as a pinch-hitter with runners on first and third to end the eighth.

Chris Burke doubled with one out in the first ahead of Berkman's 31st homer to straightaway center. Carlos Lee followed with a double and scored on Ty Wigginton's two-out single for a 3-0 lead.

The Cardinals had three hits and a sacrifice fly by Spiezio in the bottom of the first. They cut the gap to one in the fifth on two hits and Ankiel's run-scoring groundout -- his second RBI in 16 games since reports of his involvement with human growth hormone in 2004.


Josh Anderson had two hits, including an RBI infield hit to make it 6-2 in the eighth, and is batting .474 (18-for-38) during an eight-game hitting streak. ... Spiezio has started eight straight games since being activated from the restricted list following treatment for substance abuse. He is batting .143 (4-for-28) with three RBI. ... Backe singled in the sixth and is 3-for-8 for the season. ... The Cardinals' Russ Springer struck out one in a perfect seventh and hasn't allowed a run in a career-best 17 2/3 innings -- a team high for the season. ... Home plate umpire Rick Reed left the game before the bottom of the sixth, suffering from left knee discomfort. Second base umpire Alfonzo Marquez went behind the plate.

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.
Players of the Game

B. Backe
IP 6.0
H 6
ER 2
BB 2
K 2
St. Louis

D. Eckstein
AB 4
R 0
H 3
HR 0

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Houston Astros
Josh Anderson, CF5021002 .439
Chris Burke, 2B5110002 .231
Lance Berkman, 1B4112112 .276
Carlos Lee, LF5120010 .300
Hunter Pence, RF4120013 .325
    Eric Bruntlett, RF0000100 .250
Ty Wigginton, 3B5011022 .281
Cody Ransom, SS3110101 .320
J.R. Towles, C3112101 .400
Brandon Backe, P3010012 .375
    Dennis Sarfate, P0000000 .000
   a- Orlando Palmeiro, PH1010000 .242
    Chad Qualls, P0000000 .000
    Stephen Randolph, P0000000 .000
    Brad Lidge, P0000000 .000
a-singled for Sarfate in the 8th
2B - Chris Burke (17, Pineiro), Carlos Lee (41, Pineiro), Cody Ransom (2, Franklin), J.R. Towles (3, Franklin)
HR - Lance Berkman (31, Pineiro)
RBI - Josh Anderson (9), Lance Berkman 2 (95), Ty Wigginton (66), J.R. Towles 2 (11)
2-OUT RBI - Ty Wigginton (17)
CS - Josh Anderson (1, 2nd base by Pineiro/Molina), Eric Bruntlett (3, 2nd base by Maroth/Molina)
Team LOB - 9
DP - Backe-Ransom-Berkman
E - Eric Bruntlett (8, Dropped fly)
Houston Astros
Brandon Backe (W,2-1) 6622220 4.37
Dennis Sarfate (H,2) 1100120 0.00
Chad Qualls 1100000 3.20
Stephen Randolph 0.2011300 10.66
Brad Lidge (S,16) 0.1000100 2.95
Pitches-Strikes - Brandon Backe 87-52, Dennis Sarfate 17-9, Chad Qualls 15-11, Stephen Randolph 28-12, Brad Lidge 8-3
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Brandon Backe 4-11, Chad Qualls 3-1, Brad Lidge 1-0
Batters Faced - Brandon Backe 25, Dennis Sarfate 5, Chad Qualls 5, Stephen Randolph 5, Brad Lidge 2
St. Louis Cardinals
David Eckstein, SS4030100 .304
Rick Ankiel, CF4201114 .265
Ryan Ludwick, RF4010114 .255
Scott Spiezio, 1B2001201 .255
Skip Schumaker, LF4020011 .320
   a- Albert Pujols, PH0001100 .321
    Anthony Reyes, PR0000000 .077
Yadier Molina, C5000006 .275
Miguel Cairo, 3B4010001 .256
Joel Pineiro, P2000010 .067
    Tyler Johnson, P0000000 .000
    Russ Springer, P0000000 .000
   b- Brendan Ryan, PH0000100 .302
    Ryan Franklin, P0000000 .500
    Randy Flores, P0000000 .000
   c- Jim Edmonds, PH1000002 .248
    Mike Maroth, P0000000 .214
Aaron Miles, 2B4110001 .297
a-walked for Schumaker in the 9th
b-walked for Springer in the 7th
c-grounded out for Flores in the 8th
2B - Skip Schumaker (9, Backe)
SF - Scott Spiezio (3)
RBI - Rick Ankiel (31), Scott Spiezio (30), Albert Pujols (96)
2-OUT RBI - Albert Pujols (25)
SB - Rick Ankiel (1, 2nd base off Randolph/Towles)
Team LOB - 12
DP - Molina-Miles
St. Louis Cardinals
Joel Pineiro (L,6-5) 5.2833341 4.72
Tyler Johnson 0.1000000 3.41
Russ Springer 1000010 2.14
Ryan Franklin 0.1433000 2.79
Randy Flores 0.2100000 4.39
Mike Maroth 1000110 6.95
Pitches-Strikes - Joel Pineiro 111-66, Tyler Johnson 3-2, Russ Springer 9-6, Ryan Franklin 12-9, Randy Flores 10-7, Mike Maroth 18-8
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Joel Pineiro 7-5, Tyler Johnson 1-0, Russ Springer 1-1, Randy Flores 2-0
Batters Faced - Joel Pineiro 27, Tyler Johnson 1, Russ Springer 3, Ryan Franklin 5, Randy Flores 3, Mike Maroth 3
Game Information
Attendance - 43677
Game Time - 3:38
Temperature - 82
Umpires - Home - Rick Reed, First Base - Tim Timmons, Second Base - Alfonso Marquez, Third Base - Chuck Meriwether