Michael Wacha gave up two runs in seven innings, his longest outing of the spring. He allowed two runs and struck out eight without allowing a walk.
‘‘I'm pretty happy with how it's going,'' Wacha said. I am just stretching myself out. I'll be ready in two weeks.''
Mark Ellis played three innings at second base for the Cardinals. He is competing with Kolten Wong for the starting job at second base. Ellis is recovering from left knee tendinitis. He was signed as a free agent from the Los Angeles Dodgers during the off season. He had a hit and scored a run in three at-bats.
‘‘I feel good and better than ever,'' said Ellis, who batted .270 in 46 games for the Dodgers last season. ‘‘I just want to keep progressing and getting better.''
Brett Oberholtzer, who was named the No. 3 starter in the Astros' rotation, allowed five runs in five innings as his ERA rose to 11.00.
Jose Altuve homered for the Astros.
Cardinals: Manager Mike Matheny said that Wacha is ready to start the season right now. ‘‘He had a nice game and he's ready,'' Matheny said. ‘‘He has made some adjustments and when you have no walks in two straight games, that's pretty good.''
Wacha has a 1.76 ERA this spring and hasn't allowed a walk in 10 2-3 innings. Astros: Oberholtzer said he isn't concerned about his inflated ERA and is ready for opening day.
He will follow Scott Feldman and Jarred Cosart in the Astros' rotation. The final two spots haven't been named.
Oberholtzer gave up four runs in the first inning, but still went a spring-high five innings.
‘‘I had a rough first inning, but I was satisfied after that,'' Oberholtzer said. ‘‘During the course of a season, that is going to happen. I got some pitches up, but I'm still preparing for opening day.''
WHAT A RELIEF
Astros reliever Chad Qualls pitched an inning with one strikeout. He is a candidate to be the Astros closer, but said he has no idea how the scenario will play out.
‘‘You have to go two doors down,'' said Qualls, pointing toward manager Bo Porter's office. ‘‘Who knows. I feel good. I am locating my pitches and getting my fastball over.''
Qualls went 5-2 with a 2.61 ERA for the Miami Marlins last season.
The Cardinals' Keith Butler allowed one hit in an inning of relief. His Grapefruit League ERA is 8.64 but Matheny said he was impressed by Butler.
‘‘He was really crowding the zone with his fastball,'' Matheny said. ‘‘I haven't seen that from him before. I like what I saw.''
Link to box score: St. Louis (9-10-2) 5 at Houston 2
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