Jeff Kent started a rally in the eighth inning with a double and hit a two-run double in the ninth, and Wagner converted his 11th straight save opportunity as the Astros beat the Cardinals 7-4 Thursday night after blowing a three-run lead.
“When we play the Cardinals, we always have a tough game,” said Wagner, who pitched the ninth for his 15th save and 11th straight. “We were able to get lucky there at the end and score a couple of runs.”
The Astros are 23-1 when leading after eight innings this season.
Houston scored twice in the eighth and added two more runs in the ninth after failing to hold a 3-1 lead in the seventh.
Kent’s double with one out in the eighth knocked out Cardinals starter Matt Morris. Jeff Fassero (0-2) relieved and Lance Berkman hit a grounder that shortstop Edgar Renteria missed for St. Louis’ third error. Kent scored and Berkman went to second.
“We played ugly tonight as a team and it cost us.” said Fassero, who gave up an unearned run for the loss.
Wagner made sure the Houston lead held up.
“I’ve been throwing the ball well,” Wagner said. “I’ve been fortunate. I’ve had some great plays made behind me.”
“The only way it would have been nicer would have been to have a one-pitch groundout,” Saarloos said.
Lidge walked Miguel Cairo to start the inning and then gave up singles to Orlando Palmeiro and J.D. Drew to load the bases. Albert Pujols hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Cairo. Lidge had not been scored on in his previous 10 games covering 9 2-3 innings.
After Scott Rolen struck out, Renteria singled just inside the right-field line to tie the game. Drew, who took third on Renteria’s single, scored on Ausmus’ first passed ball of the season. Saarloos came in to strike out Matheny to end the inning.
Houston scored in the first when Geoff Blum homered on the first pitch he saw, snapping Morris’ 18 1-3 inning scoreless streak. After that, Morris retired nine straight before Houston went up 2-0 in the fourth inning. Jeff Bagwell doubled and scored on a fielder’s choice by Orlando Merced.
“We still had the opportunity to win it,” Morris said. “These guys never make mistakes. It’s nobody’s fault. I thought I could have gone out there in the eighth and made better pitches.”
The Cardinals cut the lead in half in the bottom half. Tino Martinez, who was booed after he popped out in foul territory to Ausmus in the second inning, doubled off the wall in center scoring Renteria. It was just the 15th RBI of the season for Martinez, who is 11-for-76 (.144) in May.
Two St. Louis errors led to an unearned run in the sixth. A low throw by third baseman Rolen put Bagwell on first. Left fielder Pujols booted Berkman’s single and Bagwell went to third. Bagwell scored on a Merced’s sacrifice fly for a 3-1 Houston lead.
Morris refused to pin the loss on the St. Louis defense.
Morris, who struck out three times, batted with the bases loaded and twoouts in the sixth inning. In all, the Cardinals stranded 10 runners.
: Morris allowed six hits and four runs—three earned—in 7 1-3 innings. Redding gave up one run and seven hits in 5 2-3 innings. … The game was a makeup from a rained out contest on April 6. It was played at night because it was Pujols Bat Day and the Cardinals wanted school-aged children to be able to attend for the promotion. … It was the second three-error game of the year for St. Louis. … Kent was back in the lineup Thursday after sitting out Wednesday’s game with a bruised left hip. … The Astros and Cardinals will notplay each other again until September when they will play for six games.