HOUSTON -- After a sweep in Colorado, the St. Louis Cardinals were looking for a positive finish to the first half of the season.
They found it in Houston, where Matt Holliday hit a three-run homer in a 4-2 win over the Astros on Sunday that gave them a series win over their NL Central rival.
The Cardinals trailed 2-0 before Holliday's shot to left field in the fourth inning. It was his 16th home run of the season.
"We were playing for our lives," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said of his team, which ended the first half in second place behind Cincinnati. "That describes what we did. We're alive and kicking. Houston has played us pretty tough. They have a winning record against us. To win the series, it's a really good win."
Blake Hawksworth (3-5) yielded seven hits and two runs in 5 1/3 innings to get the win in his fifth major league start. Closer Ryan Franklin pitched a scoreless ninth for his 16th save in 17 opportunities.
"Location wasn't its best," Hawksworth said. "First two innings were tough on the pitch count, too. Glad we got the win going into the break. That's the most important thing, but I have to get better."
Houston starter Wandy Rodriguez's winning streak was snapped at three after he allowed four hits and three runs with six strikeouts.
"That one pitch was a good pitch inside and he hit the ball for a home run," Rodriguez said of Holliday's shot. "It wasn't a mistake."
Colby Rasmus, who didn't start for the second consecutive game because of a tight right hamstring, drove in a run with a two-out, pinch-hit single in the eighth inning that made it 4-2. He was replaced by a pinch runner after the hit.
The Astros' Michael Bourn walked in the first inning before a single by Jeff Keppinger, and Bourn scored on a single by Carlos Lee with one out. Keppinger scored on a single by Hunter Pence to make it 2-0.
Rodriguez (6-11) retired the first 10 batters he faced before rookie Jon Jay extended his hitting streak to 11 games on a single with one out in the fourth inning. A single by Albert Pujols set up Holliday's fifth home run in the last six games and gave St. Louis a 3-2 lead.
"This win was well-deserved, and we needed it," La Russa said. "We had a big swing from Matt. At that point, before that thing started, we weren't doing anything against Rodriguez."
Yadier Molina doubled with two outs before Houston intentionally walked Tyler Greene, but Rodriguez limited the damage when Hawksworth grounded out.
The Astros had 10 hits, but couldn't put anything together after the first inning on a day when they learned hitting coach Sean Berry had been let go to make room for former star Jeff Bagwell to take the position. Bagwell wasn't in uniform Sunday and begins work on Thursday in Pittsburgh before the start of Friday's series with the Pirates.
A pair of singles in the seventh inning put Keppinger in scoring position, but Kyle McClellan retired Pedro Feliz to end the inning. McClellan struck out one in 1 2/3 innings.
La Russa said after the game that there is "no doubt" Rasmus will return to the starting lineup after the All-Star break. ... The Cardinals hoped OF Ryan Ludwick could come off the DL after the break, but La Russa said Sunday that he isn't sure if that will happen. Ludwick has been out with a left calf strain since June 26. ... Houston RHP Brian Moehler, who left Wednesday's game with a strained right groin, should be available after the break.