St. Louis (71-81) lost for the 13th time in 15 games with a 18-1 loss to the Astros (67-86) on Thursday as Houston rookie J.R. Towles had four hits and drove in a franchise-record eight runs. Towles, who began the year at Class-A Salem and was among the September callups, was 3-for-13 with one RBI in five games before Thursday.
“I can’t even describe it,” Towles said. “This is the last thing I thought would happen. Coming up to the big leagues was pretty impressive and this is beyond words.”
Houston set season highs for runs and hits (23) en route to its fifth victory in the last 15 games.
St. Louis played without slugger Albert Pujols, who was held out of the lineup for a third straight start because of a strained left calf muscle. Manager Tony La Russa called him “doubtful” for the weekend, but said talk about him sitting out the remainder of the season was “premature.”
The Astros are trying to win three straight for the first time since Aug. 29-31. Their win on Thursday came just hours after the team announced that Ed Wade was hired as general manager.
Wade was fired two years ago by the Philadelphia Phillies after they failed to make the playoffs in his eighth consecutive season as general manager. The 51-year-old, who worked in public relations with Houston earlier in his career, was criticized in Philadelphia for his reluctance to make big moves and his signing of players who underperformed to big contracts.
Astros president Tal Smith defended the signing of Wade, crediting him for re-building a Phillies team that is a playoff contender this year.
“You’ve got to look at the body of work and this was done under Ed Wade’s administration with the Phillies,” Smith said.
Houston will continue the series by sending Brandon Backe (1-1, 4.86 ERA) to the mound for his fourth start of the year after he underwent Tommy John surgery last September. Backe allowed two runs and three hits in six innings of a 15-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday for his first win since beating the Pirates on Aug. 8, 2006.
The right-hander is 1-1 with a 6.29 ERA in four starts and five relief appearances against the Cardinals. He hasn’t faced them since September 2005.
Joel Pineiro (5-3, 4.50) will counter for St. Louis. The right-hander, who is 3-0 with a 3.04 ERA in four starts at Busch Stadium this year, has alternated wins and losses in his last four starts. Pineiro gave up three runs and seven hits in seven innings against the Chicago Cubs on Saturday in a 4-3 win.
Pineiro is 1-2 with a 2.57 ERA in three career starts against the Astros. He allowed two runs and five hits in six innings in a 3-1 loss against them on Aug. 30.