"It was academic," said manager Tony La Russa of his club being ousted with nine days to go. "The thing that is more irritating is that we're having a tough time winning games. That's not fun."
The loss Friday was the Cardinals' 14th in their last 16 games and left them at 71-82, the farthest they have been under .500 all season.
"I don't feel better that this is the first losing year (since 1999)," said La Russa. "I feel worse that it's a losing year."
Right-handed pitcher Joel Pineiro lost for the first time in five starts. Pineiro labored through 111 pitches in 5 2/3 innings.
ASTROS 6, CARDINALS 3: Houston's Brad Lidge didn't allow himself to give up a game-tying grand slam to nemesis Albert Pujols. Lidge walked the pinch-hitting Pujols on four pitches, forcing in a run in the ninth before Yadier Molina grounded into a force-out to end the game. David Eckstein, bidding for his first .300 season, had three singles.
NOTES AND QUOTES
--1B Albert Pujols, who has been bothered by a calf strain, took ground balls in the field and had a strong batting practice session, leading trainer Barry Weinberg to say that said he had little doubt that Pujols, who has had a cortisone shot, would be able to play in the field next week on the road.
--CF Jim Edmonds had an MRI Thursday for his groin strain and then was re-examined on Friday. Weinberg said it was "questionable" whether Edmonds would play in the field any more this season, although he did pinch hit Friday.
--INF Russell Branyan was taken to a local hospital Thursday night after he had complained of chest pains. Weinberg had feared it might be a case of appendicitis, but the ailment was deemed nothing more than "viral gastrorenteritis," an intestinal disorder. Branyan was in the clubhouse Friday night but was sent home to rest.
--Manager Tony La Russa said that RHP Anthony Reyes, 2-14, won't pitch anymore this season because of what the manager termed "minor" shoulder issues.
--La Russa said he would be part of an organizational meeting on the Monday after the end of the season.
"I think they're interested in my observations on our club this year," he said. "Why wouldn't they be? Unless they think I messed up so bad, they don't want me back."
Pertaining to next year, La Russa joked, "They may ask me to leave before that part of the meeting."