Astros 13, Cardinals 0

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ST. LOUIS (AP)—The Cardinals absorbed another big hit, the news they’d be without ace pitcher Chris Carpenter for at least three more months, while getting routed by the Houston Astros.

Matt Albers pitched shutout ball into the eighth inning on short rest for his first major league win and fellow rookie Hunter Pence hit a grand slam for his first career homer in Houston’s 13-0 victory on Saturday.

“He really set the tone,” teammate Mark Loretta said of the 24-year-old right-hander. “He was mowing them down. They were taking some swings you don’t usually see them take.

“Yeah we scored 13 runs, but we didn’t need that many to win today.”

The defending World Series champions, in last place in the NL Central, have lost six of seven. They have allowed six or more runs for the 12th time in their first 28 games and were shut out for the fourth time.

During the rout the team announced that Carpenter will undergo arthroscopic elbow surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that will sideline him at least three months. Carpenter is optimistic he’ll pitch the last two months of the season. Dr. George Paletta, the team physician, said there are no guarantees.

“When he was making progress, it was exciting, the impact he would make on our club,” manager Tony La Russa said. “It’s a tough break, but it’s not a break that beats you, not unless you allow it to.”

Albers (1-1), pitching on three days’ rest because of Chris Sampson’s sinus problems, allowed three singles in 7 1-3 innings. He struck out two and walked one.

“I don’t know if it helped me, but I didn’t feel any different than I would on normal rest,” Albers said. “They say short rest helps your sinker sink a little bit, and maybe it did.”

Carlos Lee broke the game open with a three-run double in the fifth to make it 6-0 off Kip Wells (1-6).

Loretta was 4-for-5 with an RBI and Luke Scott had a pair of RBI doubles for the Astros, who scored a season-high 13 runs. Houston was 8-for-17 with runners in scoring position.

Pence, who was called up April 27 to jump start the Astros offense, hit his grand slam off Dennis Dove in the eighth to make it 13-0.

“It happened so fast,” Pence said. “I really didn’t get a chance to do anything but smile and say ‘all right, sweet’.”

Wells, signed to a free agent deal to replace Jeff Weaver in a rebuilt rotation, has lost his last five starts. He allowed seven runs and six hits in 4 1-3 innings, walking four and striking out three. Since throwing seven innings of one-hit ball at Houston for his lone victory on April 8, he has allowed 28 earned runs in 28 innings.

“When things aren’t going good, it just seems to snowball,” Wells said. “It’s something you have to overcome.”

On Friday, the Cardinals won their first home game since pitcher Josh Hancock’s fatal accident five days earlier with a 3-2 victory over Houston. But in the last seven games they’ve been outscored 51-10.

Earlier in the week, La Russa described the overall play as “fuzzy.”

“We won a game 3-2 is all we’ve done,” the manager said. “Not sharp is a better word. However you want to describe it, we’re not playing well enough.”

Their 11-17 record is the franchise’s worst since an identical start in 1990. Scott Rolen is in an 0-for-22 slump and Jim Edmonds is hitless in his last 13 at-bats.

Albers had been 0-3 with a 5.52 career ERA entering the start and lasted only 2 1-3 innings in his previous outing.

Lance Berkman hit the last of three straight singles to open the game to out the Astros ahead in the first. Scott’s RBI double in the fourth made it 2-0 and Houston batted around in the fifth.

Morgan Ensberg and Berkman each had run-scoring singles in the sixth.

Notes

Albert Pujols went 0-for-4 to snap a 12-game hitting streak. … The Astros have hit three grand slams this season. … The Cardinals have been outscored 20-3 in the first inning and have scored first in only seven of their first 28 games. … Cardinals 3B coach Jose Oquendo missed his second straight game after the death of his father-in-law. Bench coach Joe Pettini has been subbing for him. … The Cardinals are 4-10 at home after going 49-31 last year.

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