Chris Johnson belted his first career grand slam and the Houston Astros pounded the St. Louis Cardinals, 8-2, in the second portion of a three-game series at Minute Maid Park.
Jed Lowrie crushed a two-run homer, Justin Maxwell contributed an RBI double and starter Bud Norris helped his own cause with a sacrifice fly for the Astros, who have won five in a row.
Norris (2-1) gave up one unearned run on three hits and four walks while fanning four over six strong innings. Wesley Wright and Wilton Lopez combined for a scoreless seventh, David Carpenter gave up a run in the eighth and Fernando Abad closed it out with a perfect ninth.
Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday had an RBI single apiece for the defending World Series champs, who have dropped three consecutive contests.
Jaime Garcia (2-2) gave up six runs on four hits and four walks while striking out two over six innings.
St. Louis opened the scoring in its first at-bat. Rafael Furcal got things started with a base hit into left-center and Jon Jay reached on an error by Johnson to put Cardinals on second and third. After Holliday whiffed, Beltran stroked a single into right.
Houston answered back in a big way in the home half of the inning. After Jose Altuve struck out, Brian Bogusevic drew a walk and stole second before J.D. Martinez and Carlos Lee walked to load the bases. Johnson then hammered a fastball from Garcia deep down the left field line and into the seats.
The Astros added two more runs in the fourth. Johnson got the inning started with a single, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored when Maxwell ripped a double off the wall in left. Maxwell then advanced to third on a groundout by Jason Castro and scored on a sac fly by Norris.
Jay started the Cardinals' eighth with a single and came around to score on a single up the middle by Holliday to make it 6-2, but the Astros got the run back plus one in the home half of the inning.
Lee opened the fame by ripping a line drive to right that took one hop over the fence for a ground-rule double. Lowrie then laced a screaming liner to left off J.C. Romero. Lowrie stopped at second, but the play was reviewed and it showed the ball hit off the railing above the wall for the home run to cap the scoring.
The Cardinals have scored in the opening inning in each of their last five games and have out-scored the opposition 22-16 in the opening inning this season...Garcia is 0-4 in six career starts against Houston...Lowrie extended his hitting streak to eight games...It is Houston's longest winning streak since August 22-26, 2010.