"[Starter Kyle] Lohse set the tone," Jay said. "Our bullpen did a good job. We got timely hitting. I think that's what the big deal is. As long as we do that, we're going to be fine."
The beneficiary of Jay's activity was Lohse, who joined Lance Lynn as the staff's second 13-game winner. Lohse carried the club through the first seven innings before Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte tossed scoreless innings out of the 'pen.
A blown save and insufficient run support had, in his two most recent starts, kept Lohse from recording his 13th win despite allowing just one run in 13 2/3 innings.
"I felt really good out there," Lohse said. "I felt really solid mechanically, was hitting my spots, changing speeds and doing the things I needed to do to be successful. It was another one of those starts where I tried to put the team in a good position."
Piggybacking Tuesday's shutout by starter Adam Wainwright, Lohse's deficiencies could be summed up with two swings. Houston's runs came via a pair of solo homers, somewhat surprising given that Lohse had allowed only one long ball in his seven starts since the All-Star break.
But former Cardinals farmhand Brett Wallace went deep off Lohse in the first, and catcher Chris Snyder broke a tie in the third inning with his seventh homer of the year.
Aside from the homers, it was hard to find fault in much else Lohse did. He limited the Astros to only one other hit and didn't walk a batter for the first time in five starts. He ended his 87-pitch outing by retiring 14 straight Houston batters.
"Kyle had another great outing," manager Mike Matheny said. "He did a nice job of getting everything down in the zone."
The only threat after Snyder's blast came on Wallace's sixth-inning drive to the left-center field wall. With the Cardinals having just inched in front for their first lead of the game, Jay preserved it by making the catch as he banged into the padding.
Jay has made several such catches over the past few weeks, showing no hesitancy to run full speed and sacrifice his body, even though a collision with the wall landed him on the disabled list earlier this year.
"You can't think about it," Jay said. "In this game, you have to play it hard and that's the way I play."
"He's becoming a great center fielder out there," added right fielder Carlos Beltran. "He's probably not the fastest guy out there, but he's smart playing defense. He's been very valuable to us in the outfield, and I'm just so glad he's having such a great season not just defensively, but also offensively."
Jay had just been in the center of the Cardinals' offense a half-inning earlier. After scoring on Daniel Descalso's two-out double in the second, St. Louis tagged Astros starter Bud Norris for two runs in that fifth inning
Rafael Furcal singled and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, putting him in position to tie the game on Jay's second single of the night. Astros right fielder Steve Pearce made an ill-advised throw home, and Jay never hesitated with an opportunity to take second.
A groundout pushed Jay 90 feet farther, and his anticipation and instant read on a ball that scooted away from Snyder allowed him to score easily on the wild pitch.
"I know Bud likes to throw his breaking ball, and that was one of those situations where I thought he might do it, so I got a little more [of a lead]," Jay said. "He did throw it, and I just happened to get a good read on it."
Jay, who also took the team lead by stealing his 14th base, now has nine multihit games since Aug. 6.
"He is just an impressive ballplayer," Matheny said. "He does a lot of little things right. He's aggressive out there, and he's fun to watch."
The Cardinals scored an insurance run off reliever Fernando Rodriguez in the eighth, but the loss still went to Norris. It was his 10th straight, though he has habitually proven formidable when facing St. Louis.
Norris, who has a career 4.54 ERA, entered with a 2.47 mark and a 7-3 record in 12 previous starts against the Cardinals. Among active pitchers with at least 10 starts against the Cardinals, no one has a lower ERA.
"They bring out the best in me I guess," Norris said. "I know how a good a team they are. Their track record shows. They're the World Champs, and they know how to play the right way."