Then much traveled second baseman David Newhan, who has spent most of the season in the minors, took a low 3-1 fastball and laced it just inside the right-field foul pole for only his second home run of the season.
In the ninth, the Cardinals fell victim to Minute Maid Park. Houston first baseman Lance Berkman, after hitting a long drive foul to right off right-hander Russ Springer, a former teammate, lofted an opposite-field homer to the left-field seats. And the Cardinals had fallen 4 1/2 games (five losses) behind the Milwaukee Brewers.
"It never really crossed my mind it was going to go out of the park," said Springer. "It managed to find the short boxes. That's how it works."
Lohse, 13-3 at one point, is winless in his last five starts although his eight-inning performance, tying his longest of the season, merited more Friday.
"You've seen this game a lot of times," said manager Tony La Russa. "There's no justice.
"I don't think he made a mistake tonight. We just couldn't get him enough runs so he could avoid some baseball luck."
But Lohse took himself to task.
"I felt I was in control all night. I just happened to make one bad pitch and it cost us a lead," said Lohse. "I felt good about most of it, but the bottom line is that we lost the ballgame."
Lohse's last win came on Aug. 1. "It's not like I'm losing concentration or focus," he said. "I just end up making one bad pitch that costs us a ballgame."
ASTROS 3, CARDINALS 2: A double by C Yadier Molina drove in a fourth-inning run and a double by rookie LF Nick Stavinoha led to a sixth-inning run knocked in by RF Ryan Ludwick's sacrifice fly. But the Cardinals failed to score three other runners who reached base to lead off innings, and they hit into double plays in both the eighth and ninth innings after the first batter had opened with a single.
NOTES AND QUOTES
--RHP Chris Carpenter, sidelined with a strained right shoulder, threw a second 60-pitch bullpen session and reported continued progress. But if he comes back this season, it probably will be as a reliever.
--RHP Russ Springer, Friday's loser, suffered his first loss of the season. He has given up only 12 earned runs all year but has allowed four home runs.
--Houston has won the first game in each of the teams' five series this season. The Cardinals won the final two games of the series on the first four occasions.
--Manager Tony La Russa started nine right-handed batters against a left-hander (Randy Wolf) for the second consecutive game. Six batters had one hit apiece.
--RF Ryan Ludwick's sacrifice fly in the sixth inning was his 98th RBI of the season.