Astros strike early, hold on late vs. Cards

Astros strike early, hold on late vs. Cards

Astros strike early, hold on late vs. Cards
HOUSTON -- Brett Myers was milling around the bullpen, thinking there was no way his services were going to be needed. The Astros appeared to be cruising to an easy win over the Cardinals, seemingly making the role of the closer an obsolete one Tuesday night.

A frenetic ninth inning in which the Cardinals got a two-run triple from Adron Chambers to put the tying run in the on-deck circle changed things in a hurry. And it forced Myers to get ready much quicker than he would under normal circumstances.

By the time the Houston closer had thrown an adequate number of pitches to be sufficiently warmed up, he had given up a two-run homer to Rafael Furcal to bring the tying run to the plate. But Myers bore down to get the final two outs and seal the Astros' 9-8 win at Minute Maid Park.

"It was like, 'Boom, you're in,'" said Myers, who threw only eight warmup pitches in the bullpen. "It was tough, but you've got to grind through the situations, and I was able to do that tonight."

The save was the 14th in 15 tries for the Myers, giving the Astros two wins in a row following an eight-game losing streak. Lucas Harrell got the win by allowing four runs (three earned) in six innings, and Jose Altuve tied a career high by going 4-for-5.

"I felt good," said Altuve, who his hitting .500 (14-for-28) in his last six games. "I just took my pitches to hit and I hit the ball pretty well. I'm happy because I helped my team to win."

The Astros were leading, 9-4, heading into the ninth before the Cardinals scored three times off David Carpenter, who was pulled after giving up Chambers' two-run triple that cut the Astros' lead to 9-6. Furcal worked a 3-2 count to Myers before hitting a ball down the right-field line that kissed off the foul pole for a two-run homer, trimming the lead to 9-8.

"I didn't want to walk him and give them a chance with their big bats coming up, especially if [Carlos] Beltran was up there and a chance for a three-run homer," Myers said. "I tried to pound down in the zone and I wasn't there tonight, but I didn't feel like I had enough time to get ready. That's nobody's fault. It's just the way the game goes sometimes."

Myers got Beltran to pop out and retired Allen Craig on a grounder to shortstop after a walk to Matt Holliday to finish off the Cardinals. All's well that ends well.

"It was nice to be able to hold on," Astros manager Brad Mills said.

The Astros jumped on Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia to take a 6-1 lead after two innings. Houston scored four runs in the first inning, capped by a two-run single by Chris Snyder, and tacked on a tape measure two-run homer by Justin Maxwell in the second.

Garcia, starting on an extra day of rest because of discomfort in his left elbow, fell to 0-5 with an 8.10 ERA in seven career starts against the Astros.

"They gave him some pretty thorough examinations, and we felt confident that he was ready to go, but he obviously wasn't," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.

Garcia sounded concerned.

"I wish I knew what was wrong, I'd fix it," he said. "I'm definitely not in a position where I can go out there and help the team win."

Harrell (5-4), who allowed 10 hits and nine runs in five innings on Wednesday against the Rockies, gave up an unearned run in the first inning, thanks to a fielding error by Altuve, and Matt Adams hit a long three-run homer over the hill in center field in the third to get St. Louis within two, at 6-4.

Harrell settled down to retire nine of the final 11 batters he faced to improve to 4-0 with a 2.76 ERA in five career starts at Minute Maid Park.

"If you've looked at my charts over the past five or six [starts], I've felt like I've gotten stronger as the game's gone on," Harrell said. "Maybe as I tire down, my sinker is a little bit more effective, but I felt like later on in the game my sinker was overall sharper."

Brian Bogusevic led off the fourth with a homer, and the Astros took an 8-4 lead in the sixth when Altuve doubled and scored on a throwing error by pitcher Victor Marte. Back-to-back doubles by Chris Johnson and Brett Wallace made it 9-4.

"We did a good job of putting some runs up early, and we needed every single one of them tonight," Maxwell said.

Brian McTaggart is reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.