Astros can't convert milestones into victory

Astros can't convert milestones into victory

HOUSTON -- On a night when home runs came early and often, the Cardinals used a pair of dingers to take one from the Astros, 8-5, on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park. It was St. Louis' first win against its old National League foe this season.

Both starting pitchers struggled to keep the opposing offenses at bay, but lefty Jaime Garcia was just slightly more effective than Houston's Dallas Keuchel. Garcia gave up seven hits -- including three homers -- and five runs in five-plus innings, while Keuchel gave up six hits and six runs in five-plus innings.

"It was one of those games where it was a grind for me," said Garcia, who had never before allowed three home runs in a game. "Obviously, what I did today is not what I wanted to do. I have to do a better job next time. But today worked out. That's the bottom line. We won the game."

The Cardinals put away the game in the top of the sixth, when third baseman Jedd Gyorko drilled a three-run shot deep toward left-center to put St. Louis up, 8-4. The lead proved too large for the Astros to overcome, and they took their third straight loss with the Cardinals' third straight win.

"All the way through our lineup, we have the ability to do damage with the long ball, and that's a nice attribute for an offense to have," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, whose club has strung together seven straight multihomer games. "If you're down a few, you know you're two bloops and a blast from everything turning around, and it seems like any guy can do it."

Jose Altuve made history, notching his 1,000 career hit with a single in the bottom of the ninth. It was his third hit of the night after notching singles in two of his first three at-bats.

Justice: Altuve beat odds to get 1,000th hit at 26

"I'm so proud of that guy," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "He continues to be exceptional, and to have that moment where, in front of our home crowd, he can get his 1,000th hit in a very short time in his career is a real highlight in my career."

With the victory, the Cardinals moved past the Marlins and into sole possession of the second NL Wild Card spot. Miami, which fell to Cincinnati on Tuesday, sits one game back.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Homer happy: With a 407-foot, three-run blast in the sixth, Gyorko provided the Cardinals with their first comfortable lead of the night. Gyorko, who became the second right-handed batter to homer off Pat Neshek this year, has now hit a National League-most 11 home runs since the All-Star break. With 18 on the season, he's averaging a home run every 14 at-bats. His was one of two home runs hit by the Cardinals, who have strung together seven consecutive multihomer games.

"I feel good with where I'm at right now," Gyorko said. "When I get a good pitch to hit, I feel like I'm not missing it very often right now. You hope the good stretches last longer than the bad ones. You just ride it out." More >

Gyorko's three-run homer

Mr. 1,000: With his 1,000th career hit in the bottom of the ninth, Altuve became the quickest player to reach the milestone in club history by more than 100 games and the second-quickest in Major League history, behind only Ichiro Suzuki. Altuve reached the 1,000 hit mark in 786 games, while Suzuki did so in 696.

"I hope the people that are here and the people around him and the people that get to watch him daily appreciate what he does and how he does it," Hinch said. "We're scratching the surface on what's possible." More >

Altuve's 1,000th career hit

Bregman bomb: Alex Bregman notched his first career home run in a big spot, sending a two-run shot over the right-field wall to tie the score at 2 in the bottom of the first. The rookie third baseman has rebounded from a rough start to his career, batting .302 since starting 2-for-38 at the plate. More >

Bregman's first career home run

Damage control: Though Garcia was far from sharp on Tuesday, his ability to pitch out of a pair of jams helped keep his club within striking distance. After allowing two first-inning runs, Garcia stranded another two runners in scoring position by retiring Evan Gattis and Teoscar Hernandez. An inning later, the Astros loaded the bases with one out but were unable to push home a run with Altuve and Carlos Correa at the plate.

"I was able to make really good pitches there against a good team, a tough lineup," Garcia said. "I do take pride in that, but at the same time, I have to do a better job of not getting in those situations."

Garcia's K ends threat in 2nd

Keuchel's St. Louis struggles continue: For whatever reason, the Cardinals have had Keuchel's number in his limited experience with them, and Tuesday was no different. The left-hander has now surrendered 14 runs in 11 2/3 career innings against St. Louis. It was the first time Keuchel didn't put up a quality start in his last seven home outings.

"This is definitely the most frustrating loss of the season because of the way we bounced back and got four runs off Jaime and had a lead at home," Keuchel said.

Keuchel freezes Piscotty

QUOTABLE
"I feel right now like I don't want to stop. I want to keep getting better and help my team, and I'm not going to be [satisfied] until I take my team to the World Series." -- Altuve, on getting his 1,000th hit

"The pitch I hit out, it was a great pitch away. It was literally on the black. I got it off the end of the bat and it carried for me. It was luck." -- Pham, on taking Keuchel deep for a two-run homer in the fifth inning

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Cardinals top prospect Alex Reyes has made a terrific first impression. Called up from the Minors a week ago, Reyes has tossed six scoreless innings and struck out eight in three appearances. That included two scoreless frames on Tuesday.

Reyes' scoreless relief

WHAT'S NEXT
Cardinals: The Cardinals will close out their two-game visit to Houston with a 1:10 p.m. CT game on Wednesday. Right-hander Carlos Martinez will be making his first career start against the Astros. He's also still looking for his first Interleague victory, as the Cardinals are winless in his five career starts against American League clubs despite his 1.14 ERA.

Astros: Houston will hand the ball to right-hander Doug Fister at 1:10 p.m. CT at Minute Maid Park. Fister (11-7, 3.61 ERA) is coming off a game in which he gave up five runs in seven innings but still got the win thanks to his offense putting up 15 runs.

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Jordan Ray is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.