Astros drop back-and-forth affair

Astros fall late to Cardinals

HOUSTON -- As he watched the ball he threw to Troy Glaus sail toward the Astros' bullpen in right-center, Geoff Geary thought there was a pretty good chance it would clear the fence for a home run.

Perhaps Geary was relieved when the ball bounced off the fence for a double, but it didn't make much of a difference. Cardinals pitchers held the Astros scoreless for two innings after that tie-breaking double as St. Louis beat Houston, 5-3, before 30,184 on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park.

Glaus' aggressiveness caught Geary somewhat off guard. He wasn't expecting Glaus to swing at his first offering, a curveball.

"It was a strike pitch," Geary said. "I was just talking with one of the position players just now -- 'What are the odds that he's going to swing at the first pitch on a curveball?' At the beginning of the season, some stuff like that happens. He got good wood on it, and I thought it was going out after the way it came off his bat. He hit it, and I threw it."

A little luck could have changed the outcome. Prior to Glaus' at-bat, Geary walked light-hitting Chris Duncan with one out before Albert Pujols snuck a hard grounder toward short. Miguel Tejada dove and trapped the ball under his glove, but he couldn't fish it out.

What could have been an inning-ending double play for the Astros turned into a game-winner for the Cardinals. Geary struck out Rick Ankiel, but Glaus' double sailed to one of the deeper parts of Minute Maid Park, giving both runners plenty of time to score.

"It was down, a strike, but it was down," Glaus said. "I just stayed on it and didn't foul it off. Three or four days ago, it might have been a roller past [Jose] Oquendo. Today it was a better swing and a better result."

The Astros scored all of their runs early and chased starter Brad Thompson from the game after just four innings. They took a 3-2 lead in the third behind a two-run double by Tejada and a wild pitch by Thompson, scoring Tejada.

But the Astros did very little against Anthony Reyes, who threw three scoreless innings in relief to earn the win.

"We hit some balls hard, right at 'em," Carlos Lee said. "We had tough breaks today. Miggy couldn't get the ball out of the glove, that could have been the ending double play right there. That's the way it goes."

Shawn Chacon turned in the Astros' third straight quality start but wasn't eligible for the win after he left the game with the score tied at 3. Similar to his first start in San Diego on Thursday, Chacon struggled with his command early but grew stronger as the game progressed.

Chacon walked three batters in the second frame but kept the damage to a minimum, allowing one run. With Ankiel at third, Thompson laid down a bunt on the third-base side of the mound, executing the squeeze play.

Skip Schumaker tripled off Chacon to lead off the fourth and promptly scored on Duncan's sacrifice fly. Chacon breezed through the fifth, but he yielded three hits and a run in his final inning of work.

"I thought Shawn pitched well," Astros manager Cecil Cooper said. "There was one inning where he had a problem with the strike zone, but he battled. He kept us in it. If he does that every time he goes out there, we have a chance to win. That's all you can ask for from our starting pitchers."

Chacon admitted he initially didn't think he'd last deep into the game after throwing 33 pitches in the second inning.

"I was able to come back and make some pitches and get early outs and able to stay in the game longer," he said. "After that second inning, you might think that I wouldn't last very long. I was able to do that.

"I started to be more aggressive and not try to aim the ball as much. So far this season, it's early, but that's kind of been the thing for me, to stay aggressive in the strike zone and not nibble too much. Really go after the hitters."

The Astros managed two hits in the final five innings -- a triple by Hunter Pence in the seventh and a double by Blum in the eighth. Both were hit with two outs.

"They threw a lot of offspeed stuff," Cooper said. "We chased a lot of breaking balls out of the strike zone. I don't know if that's the book on us or not. They did a good job tonight."

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.