Defense falters as Astros rough up Lohse

Thursday, May 13, 2010
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa asks for the ball as he pulls starting pitcher Kyle Lohse during the sixth inning Wednesday in St. Louis. (JEFF ROBERSON ~ Associated Press)

ST. LOUIS -- Finally, the Houston Astros gave Wandy Rodriguez some runs to work with.

Rodriguez carried a one-hitter and an eight-run cushion into the sixth inning and Lance Berkman homered for the second straight game in a 9-6 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday night.

"I said thank you to them," Rodriguez said. "I try to make good pitches, that's what I do."

Cardinals shortstop Brendan Ryan endured a second straight two-error game and his fielding miscue in the fourth helped the Astros score five unearned runs to go ahead 6-1. Jeff Keppinger's three-run double and Berkman's fourth homer of the season that glanced off the right-field foul pole came on consecutive pitches from Kyle Lohse (0-3).

"I was praying, leaning -- let the thing stay straight," Berkman said. "Anytime you can score runs early and let your guy relax a little bit, that's good."

The Astros totaled 12 runs in the left-hander's first six starts. Not that much would have helped Rodriguez after he gave up seven earned runs in 8 2/3 innings in a pair of losses to start May.

Rodriguez (2-4) allowed four earned runs on five hits in six innings. Astros manager Brad Mills preferred to savor the first five innings.

"He was pounding the zone with everything," Mills said. "He came out so aggressive and you could tell his demeanor was great."

Keppinger singled and scored after a 2 for 20 slump, and Berkman's homer was the first in 100 2/3 innings allowed by Cardinals starters at home. Berkman also matched a career best with four walks, the first three off Lohse.

Keppinger wore a hat shaped like a giant taco as he met with media, although he denied he'd been slumping.

"You're going to go through spells during the season where you feel good but you're just not making solid contact," Keppinger said. "That's kind of how it felt for me.

"I'm glad this was the game where I started to come through."

Houston led 9-1 before Rodriguez (2-4) said his arm motion got out of whack. The Astros still had plenty to win their third straight, saddle St. Louis with only its third series loss out of 11 this season and for Rodriguez to end a seven-game road losing streak over 10 starts.

It's also the Astros' first series win at five-year-old Busch Stadium and their first of three or more games in St. Louis since taking two of three Sept. 14 to 16, 2004.

The Cardinals' rotation entered with a major league-leading 2.50 ERA and Lohse is the only starter without a victory -- he also has a 5.68 ERA. He allowed nine runs, a career high.

"I just wasn't very good all around," Lohse said. "I left a couple up, left a lot up, and every time I left it up they hurt."

Defense had kept Ryan in the St. Louis lineup, with great range and only three errors the first 32 games.

He also was 0 for 3, dropping his average to .173 after taking early batting practice.

Ryan noted both errors were difficult plays. The ball glanced off his glove on a soft sinking liner by Humberto Quintero to give the Astros two on to start the eighth.

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