HOUSTON – Hunter Pence hit a three-run homer and the Houston Astros completed a sweep of St. Louis with a 5-2 victory Wednesday, handing the slumping Cardinals their fifth straight defeat.
The fading Cardinals, who have lost 13 of 16, began the day seven games behind first-place Cincinnati in the NL Central. The Reds were scheduled to host Milwaukee later.
Nelson Figueroa (4-2) pitched out of two bases-loaded jams and lasted five innings for the win. Brandon Lyon worked a perfect ninth for his 11 save in 12 chances, sealing Houston's 14th victory in 20 games.
Shut out 3-0 the previous two nights, St. Louis snapped an 18-inning scoreless streak on Matt Holliday's 24th homer in the first for a 2-0 lead.
Jeff Suppan (1-7) was activated from the disabled list before the game and allowed only one hit until the Astros rallied in the fifth.
Brett Wallace drew a leadoff walk and went to third on Jason Castro's double. Pinch-hitter Brian Bogusevic hit a grounder to first baseman Albert Pujols, who threw out Wallace at the plate. Michael Bourn hit a sacrifice fly and Jeff Keppinger walked before Pence's go-ahead homer.
Bourn singled in the seventh to extend his hitting streak to 11 games. He scored on Carlos Lee's sacrifice fly.
Figueroa escaped a jam in the third, when Suppan led off with a walk and Skip Schumaker singled. Aaron Miles and Pujols flied out and Figueroa hit Holliday with a pitch to load the bases before Jon Jay grounded into a force play.
St. Louis loaded the bases again in the fifth on singles by Miles and Jay and an intentional walk to Holliday with two outs. Ex-Astro Pedro Feliz flied out to end the threat.
Figueroa allowed two runs and six hits. Five relievers combined to hold the Cardinals to one hit over the final four innings.
Schumaker doubled to start the game but was thrown out on the bases when Miles hit a comebacker to Figueroa. Pujols, hitless in his last 13 at-bats, fouled out before Holliday's homer.
The Cardinals have scored two runs in their last 36 innings. The consecutive shutouts the previous two nights marked the first time in 94 years that St. Louis had been blanked with three hits or fewer in back-to-back games.
Suppan made his first start since Aug. 1, when he pitched 5 1-3 scoreless innings against the Phillies. He went five innings and allowed four runs, three hits and four walks.
Notes: The Cardinals called up outfielder Nick Stavinoha and catcher Matt Pagnozzi from Triple-A Memphis. They also activated left-hander Dennys Reyes from the disabled list. Keppinger (toe injury) came off the disabled list before the game. ... Lee is among the major league leaders with 30 RBIs since July 28.