Cardinals end road trip with Houston loss

Chris Carpenter's solid six innings was the positive on a Wednesday night with no offense for St. Louis.

INSIDE PITCH

 

The Cardinals took care of business by winning seven of nine games in a stretch against National League bottom-feeders Houston and Chicago to give themselves a fairly comfortable lead in the race for the second wild-card spot in the National League.

 

And, although they lost the last of those nine games when they fell to right-hander Bud Norris and the Astros 2-0 on Wednesday, they received an even stronger bounce-back start from right-hander Chris Carpenter than he had made in his season debut Friday.

 

Carpenter gave up two runs in five innings in Chicago in his first appearance after having had surgery on July 19 to alleviate a nerve problem. On Wednesday, throwing a good changeup and a little better curveball, he held the Astros to four hits and two runs over six innings. Carpenter took the loss, but it was all good as far as manager Mike Matheny was concerned.

 

"He threw the ball much better tonight," said Matheny. "I thought he had better stuff. The ball was jumping out of his hand and he was locating well.

 

"But we just couldn't get anything going against Norris. We have trouble with a guy like him for some reason."

 

Norris is 8-5 in his career against the Cardinals and 19-32 against everybody else. The Cardinals had two runners on base in only one inning, the eighth, and those got on via a hit batter and an error. They had just two men in scoring position the entire game.

 

NOTES, QUOTES

LF Matt Holliday, perhaps still bothered by a sore lower back, has hit .220 over his last 10 games and was hitless in four at-bats on Wednesday. He and RF Carlos Beltran both have been scuffling lately, and manager Mike Matheny said, "There's no doubt that we need the middle of the lineup to produce. I believe they will. We just need to get them jump-started. When everybody's on, we have one of the best offenses in all of baseball. I don't think anybody would deny that."

RF Carlos Beltran, who had been 3-for-19, including his 30th homer of the season, in the first five games of the Cardinals' six-game trip to Chicago and Houston, sat out the start of Wednesday night's series finale with the Astros. Rookie Adron Chambers replaced Beltran, who hit into a forceout as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning.

1B Lance Berkman, still out after a second surgery to his right knee, took batting practice indoors at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday. "Nothing too extreme," said Berkman. "But I feel like I had a pretty good session." Addressing the possibility, an outside one, that he could return in the next week, Berkman, who has been limited to 80 at-bats this season, said, "It's too early to make a determination."

LHP Marc Rzepczynski, nearly a forgotten man in the bullpen lately, worked a scoreless seventh inning on Wednesday. Rzepczynski, who has had command issues, did not appear in the first five games of the trip and has seen rookie LHP Sam Freemen employed ahead of him.

3B David Freese, who missed the three-game Houston series because of a sprained right ankle, is shooting for a return sometime this weekend in a three-game series at home against Washington.

2B Skip Schumaker sat out again in the midst of an 8-for-46 September. "Skip is a huge part of this club. We need to get him right," manager Mike Matheny said.

By the Numbers:

38-43 - Cardinals' final record on the road this year. They were 45-36 last year.

Quote to Note:

"We're playing a one-game series every night."

- Manager Mike Matheny, whose team has six games remaining to wrap up a wild-card berth.

MEDICAL WATCH

RHP Jake Westbrook (strained right oblique) was injured Sept. 8, and he probably is out for the rest of the regular season. He encountered discomfort in a bullpen session Sept. 22 in Chicago and had to stop throwing.

LF Matt Holliday (back) came out of the Sept. 23 game in the ninth inning, but was back in the lineup the next day.

C Yadier Molina (back spasms) did not play Sept. 23 but was back in the lineup the next day.

1B Lance Berkman (sore right knee) underwent additional surgery Sept. 14 and was thought to be out for the season, but he said he still wants to try to play.

SS Rafael Furcal (torn ligament in right elbow) was placed on the 15-day disabled list Aug. 31 and is out for the season. He might need Tommy John surgery, but he got a platelet-rich plasma injection on Sept. 4 in the hopes of avoiding having to go under the knife, but as of Sept. 19 he still hadn't been able to do any baseball activities.

RHP Kyle McClellan (torn labrum in right shoulder) went on the 15-day disabled list May 18 due to a strained right elbow, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on June 30. He threw on flat ground for the first time July 3, but he subsequently felt shoulder pain. He had season-ending shoulder surgery July 10.

Link to boxscore: Houston 2, St. Louis 0

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