Cardinals 5, Astros 4: Carlos Beltran ripped a pinch-hit two-run double to snap a tie in the sixth inning as host St. Louis completed a three-game sweep by defeating Houston for the eighth consecutive time.
Allen Craig belted a three-run homer in the first inning - giving him nine RBIs in his last five contests and starter Jaime Garcia (5-7) recorded a quality start as the Cardinals posted their fourth consecutive victory and remained 2 1/2 games ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers in the race for the National League's second wild card. The Los Angeles Dodgers are three games back following a 4-1 loss to Washington.
Struggling starter Bud Norris (5-13), who hasn't won since May 21, issued a pair of walks to Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma before departing in the sixth inning. Pinch hitting for Garcia, Beltran extended his hitting streak to six games by depositing an offering from reliever Wesley Wright into left-center field to plate both runners.
Rookie Brandon Barnes' run-scoring single in the seventh trimmed the Cardinals' lead to 5-4, but Edward Mujica induced an inning-ending double play. Fellow reliever Fernando Salas fanned a pair with the bases loaded in the eighth before Jason Motte struck out the side in the ninth for his 38th save.
Rookie Brandon Laird picked up a pair of RBIs with a run-scoring single and a bases-loaded walk. Justin Maxwell snapped an 0-for-7 skid in the series with an RBI double for the Astros.
GAME NOTEBOOK: Former Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter will make his season debut on Friday as St. Louis opens a three-game set versus the Chicago Cubs. Carpenter has been sidelined since spring training and is less than two months removed from surgery to relieve a nerve ailment that has caused numbness in the right side of his body. ... St. Louis has outscored Houston by a 38-12 margin in the six games this season at Busch Stadium. ... Cardinals CF Jon Jay had a one-out single in the second inning to extend his home hitting streak to 13 games.