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Houston at St. Louis

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Houston (48-102)1020001004100
St. Louis (80-70) «30000200x591

Cards cap '12 home sweep of Astros

CBSSports.com wire reports
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ST. LOUIS -- Carlos Beltran appears to be getting his stroke back. Good timing for the St. Louis Cardinals' final playoff push.

Beltran snapped a sixth-inning tie with a two-run, pinch-hit double and Allen Craig hit a three-run homer, powering the Cardinals to a 5-4 victory Thursday that held their cushion in the NL wild-card race.

The Cardinals moved 2½ games ahead of the Dodgers for the second wild-card spot with 12 games remaining. Los Angeles played later at Washington.

St. Louis has won four in a row, capitalizing on a break in the schedule. There's more sub-.500 opposition ahead in the final trip of the year, with three in Chicago beginning Friday and three more in Houston.

"Our vibe's four games better," manager Mike Matheny said. "That's about it. We're really trying to enjoy each one and realize how much we're putting on each game as a club. Not looking forward to anything except the next one."

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The urgency was reflected in Matheny's decision to go to Beltran, slumping much of the second half, so early.

"They told me if a situation came up where guys were in scoring position, they were going to use me," Beltran said. "So I'm not surprised. The manager is the one making the calls and I just have to be ready when he needs me."

Beltran's double put St. Louis up 5-3, rewarding Jaime Garcia (5-7) for keeping it close. They took care of business against the lowly Astros, who absorbed their 102nd loss while leading for a single inning in the three-game series.

The Cardinals were 6-0 at home against Houston, their first season series sweep in St. Louis since 1996.

Houston did its best to hang tough.

"It definitely was a good series for us," said Justin Maxwell, who had an RBI double and two nice catches in right field. "We know what they're playing for over there. We're not going to hand anything to anyone."

"We're going to see them again next week, so hopefully, we can take some games from them," he said.

Bud Norris (5-13) allowed five runs on five hits and five walks in 5 1/3 innings for Houston after getting sent back to the team hotel Wednesday night because of flu-like symptoms. He's 0-12 with a 6.34 ERA in 18 starts since May 21 but with a lot of hard luck, too. He's had eight quality starts in his last 13 outings.

"I wasn't very good all around," Norris said. "I gave it everything I had. It's been a tough couple of days for me."

The Cardinals topped 3 million in attendance for the ninth consecutive season and 16th time in franchise history with paid attendance of 34,788.

Craig also doubled and has three homers and 15 RBI in 11 games against the Astros this year. He's a career .412 hitter against the Astros with six homers and 24 RBI in 20 games.

"He comes through in those big situations," Matheny said. "He can just flat hit, that's all there is to it."

Jason Motte finished for his 38th save in 45 chances and third of the series after the Astros tested the setup men.

Fernando Salas struck out Jose Altuve and pinch hitter Brett Wallace with the bases loaded to end the eighth after Mitchell Boggs and Marc Rzepczynski combined to issue three walks. Edward Mujica surrendered an RBI single to Brandon Barnes in the seventh.

The biggest worry going forward is overloading the bullpen. Motte has pitched in the last five games, and Boggs, the setup man, has worked in three straight since coming back from a minor back ailment.

"Hopefully I'll feel pretty good tomorrow and I can get back out there," Boggs said. "It was just one of those days when they were being pretty patient.

"I certainly felt like I could have gotten a ground ball out of the next guy."

Norris, who entered the game 4-2 with a 2.93 ERA in St. Louis, walked Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma with one out in the sixth and was lifted after throwing 111 pitches. Both scored easily on Beltran's drive off Wesley Wright to the base of the wall in left-center.

Beltran was batting .296 with an NL-leading 65 RBI at the All-Star break but is hitting just .229 with 24 RBIs since while dealing with a sore right knee and sore right hand. He's begun to pick it up lately, going 9 for 19 during a six-game hitting streak.

"I'm fine, brother," Beltran said. "There's no excuses. Right now, these days there's not many ballplayers feeling 100 percent, so I'm good to go."

Garcia is 2-5 with a 5.67 ERA in 10 road starts, but 3-2 with a 2.84 in eight home starts.

Notes

  • Maxwell made an excellent sliding catch on Kozma's foul popup near the stands down the RF line, upending 1B Brandon Laird in the process. Laird stayed in the game after a visit from the trainer and interim manager Tony DeFrancesco.
  • RHP Chris Carpenter makes his season debut in Chicago Friday, opposing the Cubs' Chris Volstad (3-10, 6.26). RHP Edgar Gonzalez (2-1, 4.40) opposes LHP Jeff Locke (0-1, 5.49) as the Astros begin a three-game series in Pittsburgh.
  • Maxwell is 5 for 8 against Garcia with a homer and four RBI.
 
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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Carlos Beltran's pinch-hit double helps the Cards finish 6-0 at home in 2012 vs. the Astros, and pad their wild-card lead. (Getty Images)
Carlos Beltran's pinch-hit double helps the Cards finish 6-0 at home in 2012 vs. the Astros, and pad their wild-card lead. (Getty Images)

Players of the Game
St. Louis

A. Craig
AB 4
R 1
H 2
HR 1
RBI 3
Houston

B. Barnes
AB 4
R 1
H 2
HR 0
RBI 1
 
Houston Astros
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Jose Altuve, 2B5120014 .291
Brandon Barnes, CF4121011 .219
   a- Brett Wallace, PH-1B1000013 .260
Matt Dominguez, 3B5030001 .311
    Jordan Schafer, PR0000000 .211
Justin Maxwell, RF-LF3111221 .235
J.D. Martinez, LF4000025 .242
    Hector Ambriz, P0000000 .000
    Jason Castro, C1000011 .259
Brandon Laird, 1B2012100 .294
    Wesley Wright, P0000000 .000
    Brian Bogusevic, RF-CF1000111 .205
Carlos Corporan, C3000014 .257
    Jose Valdez, P0000000 .000
    Xavier Cedeno, P0000000 .000
Marwin Gonzalez, SS2000000 .232
   b- Tyler Greene, PH-SS1000001 .225
   c- Jed Lowrie, PH-SS0000100 .252
Bud Norris, P2000000 .106
    Scott Moore, 1B1110000 .243
   d- Matt Downs, PH-RF0000100 .203
Totals354104610  
a-struck out for Barnes in the 8th
b-grounded into a double play for M. Gonzalez in the 6th
c-walked for T. Greene in the 8th
d-walked for Moore in the 8th
Batting
2B - Brandon Barnes (3, Garcia), Justin Maxwell (11, Garcia)
SH - Carlos Corporan (1)
RBI - Brandon Barnes (7), Justin Maxwell (49), Brandon Laird 2 (4)
2-OUT RBI - Brandon Laird 2 (4)
SB - Jordan Schafer (27, 2nd base off Motte/Molina)
CS - Jose Altuve (8, 2nd base by Garcia/Molina)
Team LOB - 11
Houston Astros
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Bud Norris (L,5-13) 5.1655571 5.05
Wesley Wright 0.2100000 3.14
Hector Ambriz 1100010 3.86
Jose Valdez 0.2100110 2.16
Xavier Cedeno 0.1000000 4.13
IBB - Schumaker by Jose Valdez
WP - Jose Valdez (1)
Pitches-Strikes - Bud Norris 111-60, Wesley Wright 8-5, Hector Ambriz 16-9, Jose Valdez 15-7, Xavier Cedeno 4-3
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Bud Norris 1-7, Wesley Wright 1-1, Hector Ambriz 1-0, Jose Valdez 1-0, Xavier Cedeno 1-0
Batters Faced - Bud Norris 26, Wesley Wright 3, Hector Ambriz 3, Jose Valdez 4, Xavier Cedeno 1
St. Louis Cardinals
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Jon Jay, CF4010103 .308
Matt Carpenter, RF-3B4110012 .297
Matt Holliday, LF4120020 .298
Allen Craig, 1B4123001 .307
Yadier Molina, C4000011 .321
David Freese, 3B3020110 .295
    Adron Chambers, PR-RF0000000 .244
Daniel Descalso, 2B1100211 .221
Pete Kozma, SS3100124 .257
Jaime Garcia, P2000010 .235
   a- Carlos Beltran, PH1012000 .268
    Edward Mujica, P0000000 .000
    Mitchell Boggs, P0000000 .000
    Marc Rzepczynski, P0000000 .000
    Fernando Salas, P0000000 .000
   b- Skip Schumaker, PH0000100 .282
    Jason Motte, P0000000 .000
Totals3059569  
a-doubled for Garcia in the 6th
b-was walked intentionally for Salas in the 8th
Batting
2B - Allen Craig (33, Norris), Carlos Beltran (26, Wright)
HR - Allen Craig (22, Norris)
SH - Daniel Descalso (7)
RBI - Allen Craig 3 (86), Carlos Beltran 2 (89)
SB - Jon Jay (18, 2nd base off Norris/Corporan)
CS - Jon Jay (7, 2nd base by Norris/Corporan), Allen Craig (1, 2nd base by Ambriz/Corporan)
Team LOB - 8
Fielding
DP - Kozma-Descalso-Craig, Freese-Descalso-Craig
E - David Freese (16, Misplayed grounder)
St. Louis Cardinals
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Jaime Garcia (W,5-7) 6633250 4.25
Edward Mujica (H,27) 1311100 3.25
Mitchell Boggs (H,32) 0.1000200 2.38
Marc Rzepczynski0000100 4.37
Fernando Salas (H,7) 0.2000020 4.02
Jason Motte (S,38) 1100030 2.94
WP - Jaime Garcia (10), Edward Mujica (1)
Pitches-Strikes - Jaime Garcia 95-66, Edward Mujica 20-12, Mitchell Boggs 11-2, Marc Rzepczynski 8-4, Fernando Salas 7-6, Jason Motte 17-12
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jaime Garcia 9-4, Edward Mujica 2-0, Mitchell Boggs 1-0
Batters Faced - Jaime Garcia 26, Edward Mujica 6, Mitchell Boggs 3, Marc Rzepczynski 1, Fernando Salas 2, Jason Motte 4
Game Information
Attendance - 34788
Game Time - 3:27
Temperature - 76
Umpires - Home - Larry Vanover, First Base - Dan Bellino, Second Base - Field Culbreth, Third Base - Mike Estabrook