Rookie Towles drives in 8 runs in Astros' 18-1 win over Cards

Friday, September 21, 2007
Cardinals starting pitcher Braden Looper left Thursday's game against the Astros during the sixth inning. Looper lasted 5 2/3 innings, giving up five runs on nine hits. (TOM GANNAM ~ Associated Press)

ST. LOUIS -- Rookie J.R. Towles went 4-for-4 with a franchise-record eight RBIs and the Houston Astros reached season highs in runs and hits in an 18-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday night.

Towles hit a two-run double off Braden Looper (12-11) in the second to open the scoring. He added a two-run single in the fourth, an RBI double in the sixth and a bases-loaded walk in the eighth before hitting his first career homer in the ninth off Aaron Miles.

Miles, an infielder, was on the mound because the Cardinals were short on pitchers after allowing 10 or more runs for the second time in four games. They also went 10 innings to beat the Phillies 2-1 on Wednesday night.

Towles, a 23-year-old catcher, began the year at Class A Salem and was among the September callups, going 3-for-13 with one RBI in five games before Thursday.

His record-setting night came in the opener of a four-game series matching out-of-the-running teams that combined for the last three National League pennants and 10 of the last 13 NL Central titles.

The Astros finished with 23 hits and won for the fifth time in 15 games. They surpassed their previous best for runs (15) and hits (22) established Sunday against the Pirates.

The Cardinals, last year's World Series champions, have lost 13 of 15 in a September swoon prompted by injuries that have left them with a shell of their regular lineup.

Wandy Rodriguez (9-13) went eight innings for Houston, allowing one run and seven hits against a lineup that included four players from the opening-day roster. He beat the Cardinals for the first time in five career decisions and won for only the third time in 13 decisions on the road.

Towles' homer was a two-run shot that hit the top of the left-field fence and then bounced into the visitor's bullpen.

Josh Anderson singled in two runs and Chris Burke drove in a run with a base hit during a five-run seventh that included throwing errors by Cardinals outfielders Skip Schumaker and Ryan Ludwick. Burke was a late replacement for Hunter Pence, scratched after straining his upper back running into an outfield wall on Wednesday.

Rodriguez added his second RBI of the year on a bases-loaded single in a six-run eighth.

Looper is 7-1 with a major league-leading 1.69 ERA in day games. At night the numbers spike to 5-10 with a 6.47 ERA and he labored through 5 2/3 innings against the Astros, allowing five runs and nine hits.

Noteworthy

* Anderson had two hits and three RBIs and is 15-for-32

(.467) during a seven-game hitting streak.

* Seven players had seven RBIs for the Astros, the last Jeff Bagwell on July 7, 2001, at Kansas City.

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