Cardinals beat Astros for fourth straight win

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[August 18, 2016]  HOUSTON -- St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny leaned back comfortably in the visiting manager's office at Minute Maid Park and said he knew it was coming all along.

The Cardinals' red-hot hitting continued on Wednesday afternoon in an 8-2 win over the Houston Astros.

The Cardinals won their fourth straight and swept the two-game road series in Houston by scoring six runs or more for a fourth straight game. After using multiple home runs in recent games to put up big numbers, the Cardinals used a slew of singles to build an early lead on Wednesday and later got a solo home run from Jeremy Hazelbaker and a three-run shot from Brandon Moss to keep the Astros under their thumb.

The Cardinals have hit 49 home runs since the All-Star break, which, as of Wednesday afternoon, was tied with Boston for the most in the majors across that span. St. Louis has homered in 26 of 32 games in that stretch.

For Matheny, the onslaught of power comes as no surprise.

"I knew that there was more in the tank than what we were seeing," Matheny said. "I knew the guys believed that, too."

The run support was more than enough for Carlos Martinez (11-7), who carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning before Teoscar Hernandez doubled to shallow left on a 95-mph two-seam fastball on a 2-2 count. Martinez had allowed just one baserunner through the first five innings, a second-inning walk to Marwin Gonzalez.

Hernandez later scored on a single from Astros rookie Alex Bregman.

In seven innings of work, Garcia allowed one run, three hits and a walk while striking out seven. The 24-year-old right-hander threw just 79 pitches, including 54 for strikes, moving past his last three outings where he allowed 14 runs and 21 hits.

"Every day I go out on the hill focused on my work and ready to go through nine innings, hopefully," Hernandez said. "Some days there's bad days, some days there's good days like today, I stayed focused and I felt really good. I feel like it's just part of the game."

Meanwhile, the Cardinals pounced on Astros starter Doug Fister with a five-hit third inning. Hazelbaker and Garcia led off the inning with singles and were brought home by a single from Stephen Piscotty. A Yadier Molina double scored Piscotty, giving St. Louis a 3-0 lead through three.

A Hazelbaker homer in the fourth extended the lead to 4-0, and Fister would not return after that inning.

Fister (11-8) allowed seven hits and four runs in four innings, his shortest outing of the season.

"They've got a great lineup -- I felt like I threw a lot of good pitches, but their foul balls really started to add up, and it really cut down on my ability to go deeper into the ballgame. There's no good loss and no good way to take it. It's something you've just got to chew on and for me, I've got to come back better in five days."

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The Cardinals hitters didn't let up, however, against the Houston bullpen, as Moss sent a towering shot off Tony Sipp into the upper mezzanine near the right-field foul pole for his 22nd home run of the season.

"It was just a bad pitch," Sipp said. "I kept it up and he did what most good hitters would do. I hung the pitch and he hit it pretty far."

The Astros picked up their second run in the eighth when a Jose Altuve double scored Bregman. Houston loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the ninth before being retired in order to lose their fourth straight.

The Astros matched their longest losing streak of the season with less than two months left in the regular season and they are currently on the outside of the playoff picture, looking in.

"The rollercoaster ride that we've been on is no fun when we're in this portion of it," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "This game will test your character, it'll test your resolve, it'll test your ability to come back from adversity and this is another test for us. We've got the better part of six weeks left in the regular season, and we need to compile some wins."

St. Louis improved its major-league-best road record to 36-23.

The Cardinals now head to Philadelphia for a three-game series beginning on Friday, while the Astros also have Thursday off before a four-game set in Baltimore.

"The further we get in the season the more important games are," Hazelbaker said. "That goes for every team, not just us. Everybody's out there battling, working and hopefully we keep winning and keep doing what we're doing."

NOTES: The Cardinals had no injury updates or rehab progress reports on Wednesday, one day after placing their 10th and 11th players on the disabled list with RHP Seth Maness and OF Matt Holliday. Manager Mike Matheny said LHP reliever Kevin Siegrist (forearm discomfort) was unavailable to pitch on Tuesday night but wouldn't speak on his availability for Wednesday. Siegrist has been day-to-day since being pulled abruptly on Sunday with discomfort. ... After hitting a double and a two-run home run on Tuesday night, OF Tommy Pham was not in the starting lineup on Wednesday. Pham is hitting .360 in August. ... Astros 3B Luis Valbuena did light jogging and stretching before Wednesday's game as he continues to rehab a strained right hamstring that landed him on the 15-day disabled list July 27. ... The Astros promoted OF prospect Kyler Tucker to Class A Advanced Lancaster after hitting .276 with 19 doubles, 56 RBIs and 31 steals in 101 games for Class A Quad Cities. ... Astros 3B Alex Bregman moved up to the second spot in the batting order Wednesday after hitting his first major-league home run on Tuesday night. Bregman has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games, batting .295 with five doubles and six RBIs in that span.

[ 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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