ST. LOUIS -- The Houston Astros kept creating scoring opportunities and not taking advantage of them Wednesday. That's never a good idea on any night, but especially when playing against the team with the majors' best record.
It finally caught up to the Astros in the bottom of the seventh Wednesday night, when Matt Carpenter jacked a two-run homer off reliever Wesley Wright, giving the St. Louis Cardinals a 5-4 win at sold-out Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals (55-34) swept the two-game series and the five-game homestand, expanding their NL Central lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates to two games, pending the outcome of the Pirates' rain-delayed game with Oakland.
Seth Maness (5-1) picked up the win despite yielding Brett Wallace's RBI single in the seventh that gave Houston (32-59) a short-lived 4-3 lead. Working in his sixth straight game -- St. Louis had an off day Monday -- Edward Mujica pitched the ninth for his 25th save in 26 chances.
Wright (0-3) fell behind Carpenter 2-1, then fed him a meaty fastball. The Cardinal leadoff man drilled it into the right field seats to score Tony Cruz, who was plunked on the inning's first pitch by starter Jordan Lyles.
The Astros lost despite putting 18 men aboard from 10 hits, six walks and two St. Louis errors. They stranded 12 runners, four at third base, and were only 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position, including Carlos Pena's game-ending double play grounder.
Houston grabbed a 2-0 lead in the second inning. Cleanup hitter Chris Carter lined a first-pitch homer over the right field wall, his 18th of the year. An error by Carpenter on Matt Dominguez's grounder up the middle allowed Wallace to score the other run.
St. Louis got a run back in its half of the second when Matt Adams grounded a single to left-center, plating Allen Craig from second.
The Astros made it 3-1 in the fifth when J.D. Martinez produced a two-out RBI single to left-center.
Cardinals starter Shelby Miller left after five innings and 94 pitches, having allowed five hits, three runs and five walks in an uneven outing. It was the most free passes this year for Miller, who fanned five.
Lyles gave up four runs on six hits in 6 1/3 innings.
NOTES: St. Louis RHP Chris Carpenter (right shoulder) threw more than 100 pitches Wednesday in a simulated game, and the team feels he's ready to face live hitters. He's scheduled to make his first rehab start Monday night for Double-A Springfield... After Wednesday night's game, the Cardinals won't see Houston again until at least 2016. The teams were longtime rivals in the NL Central before realignment sent the Astros to the American League after last season ... Houston fell to 8-9 in interleague games, giving it a chance for its first winning mark against the other league since 2004. The Astros' final interleague games are at home against Cincinnati in mid-September.