Yadier Molina and Peter Kozma both homered to back seven solid innings from Lance Lynn, as the St. Louis Cardinals roughed up the Houston Astros, 6-1, in the opener of a three-game series at Minute Maid Park.
Lynn (17-7) gave up one run on five hits in seven innings while striking out nine for the Cardinals, who have won three in a row and sit 3 1/2 games ahead of the Brewers and Dodgers for the second NL wild card spot.
"He did a good job. The first two innings were tough for him and for us, but he found his way and I'm really glad that he found it. We really needed this win," Molina said about Lynn.
Scott Moore drove in the lone run for the Astros, who have lost five of seven.
Astros starter Fernando Abad (0-6) allowed one run in 1 2/3 innings before exiting with a right oblique injury. Fernando Rodriguez gave up three runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings of relief.
Lynn dazzled the Astros hitters for most of the game, though he had to escape trouble early in the first. After giving up a leadoff double, issuing a walk and hitting a batter to load the bases, Lynn finally got Brandon Laird to strike out swinging to end the inning.
Rodriguez was called in as Abad's replacement with a runner on first and two outs in the second. Daniel Descalso tripled off Rodriguez on a 3-2 pitch to score Matt Carpenter and Kozma followed with a towering three-run homer over the left-field wall.
The Astros got one back from Lynn in the bottom of the frame after Moore smacked a two-out single that scored Jason Castro.
In the fourth, Molina did some yardwork of his own and added on another run, depositing a Rodriguez fastball into the left-center field seats for his 21st homer of the year to make the it 4-1.
The Cardinals added on two more runs in the seventh. Matt Holliday singled off Jose Valdez to plate Kozma and Lynn to make the score 6-1.
Sam Freeman and Trevor Rosenthal each pitched a scoreless inning of relief to hammer down the win.
"We just had some bad luck tonight. We put the bat on the ball quite a few times, but we just hit the ball right at some guys. We had some bad aim tonight," Castro said.
David Freese rolled his right ankle prior to the start of the game and was scratched from the Cardinals' starting lineup ... The Cardinals have won seven of eight ... Lynn extended his personal win streak to four games ... Astros second baseman Marwin Gonzalez left the game with a left ankle sprain ... St. Louis has won nine straight against Houston ... Astros third baseman Matt Dominguez was scratched due to a stomach virus.