ST. LOUIS -- Kyle Lohse paid no attention to the ever-changing defensive lineup behind him. He just kept attacking the Houston Astros' lineup.
Lohse threw eight dominant innings to beat the Astros for the second time in less than a month, leading the St. Louis Cardinals to a 5-1 victory Wednesday night. Manager Tony La Russa used three players in left field and three at second base to compensate for what he believed to be minor injuries to left fielder Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman.
The Cardinals won Wednesday but Albert Pujols extended his homerless drought to 88 at-bats, the longest such streak of his career.
Pujols' Longest Homerless Droughts Career
* - Active streak (Four at-bats on Wednesday)
— from Elias Sports Bureau
"I just kept throwing it up there and letting them hit to whoever was somewhere, I don't know," Lohse said. "I couldn't even tell who was where at the end."We've got of guys that can play different positions and you need that, especially on a weird night like tonight when guys are going down."Jon Jay had two RBIs in a four-run third and started a double play in the seventh with a diving catch in center field. Pinch-hitter Pete Kozma -- hitting for Berkman -- had an RBI double in his first career at-bat for the Cardinals, who have won three in a row while limiting the opposition to only three runs.Bud Norris was knocked out after five innings against a team he's dominated. Norris (2-3) had been 5-1 with a 1.97 ERA against the Cardinals and 4-0 in St. Louis, while going only 17-15 overall."That's a good hitting lineup," Norris said. "I'm fortunate to do so well against them the last couple of times, but you can't hold them down forever."They found some holes and it's a little tough to swallow, but that's the game of baseball."Norris faced 10 batters in the third, issuing a bases-loaded walk to Allen Craig, and allowed five runs on seven hits in his second-shortest appearance of the year.Michael Bourn and Humberto Quintero had two hits apiece for the Astros, who have lost four in a row and totaled four runs the last three games.La Russa finished with only backup catcher Gerald Laird on the bench. Holliday was removed after two innings with a tight left quadriceps, perhaps from making a running catch at the warning track, and Kozma pinch hit in the sixth for Berkman, removed as a precaution with tightness in his right wrist not long after he charged to make a diving catch in right field."Holliday gave me a nod, which makes me think that he'll be back soon," La Russa said, adding that his cleanup hitter might not be back for a day game Thursday.Berkman said he jammed his wrist into the ground getting the catch. X-rays showed no problems."I didn't want to get jerked out of the game right there, I mean heck, there's adrenaline and everything else and then you can kind of identify it," Berkman said. "Tomorrow morning will be a good test to see how it feels when I wake up."Lohse (5-2) allowed a run on six hits in eight innings, his fourth outing of eight or more innings, and has a 2.17 ERA. He was 4-8 with a 6.55 ERA last year while battling a forearm injury that required surgery in May."I'm just trying to keep things simple, trying not to think of the big picture and stay focused," Lohse said. "I haven't looked back so far."Lohse threw seven scoreless innings at Houston on April 27 and the run was at 13 straight before Carlos Lee doubled to begin the seventh and scored on Chris Johnson's single. Johnson was easily doubled off after Jay made a nice running, diving catch of Clint Barmes' drive.Albert Pujols is homerless in his last 88 at-bats, one off his career worst at the end of the 2009 season, after going 1 for 4 with an RBI single in the third.Craig started for the second straight game at second base, where he has virtually no experience, and handled five chances flawlessly before going to the outfield.
Kozma, the Cardinals' first-round pick in 2007, was recalled earlier in the day after IF Nick Punto was placed on the DL with a right forearm injury. Kozma finished the game at 2B. ... Despite an 0-for-14 slump, Holliday leads the National League with a .358 average. Berkman is batting .349. ... Cardinals LPH Brian Tallet (broken right hand) is set for a second rehab outing on Friday. ... La Russa, who returned from shingles on Monday, was uncomfortable Wednesday, saying "I'm itching and stinging." ... Longtime broadcaster Milo Hamilton joined the Astros in anticipation of the franchise's first visit to Toronto on Friday, which will be Hamilton's 59th stadium.