ST. LOUIS (AP) — Pinch hitter Carlos Beltran snapped a sixth-inning tie with a two-run double and Allen Craig hit a three-run home run, powering the St. Louis Cardinals to a 5-4 victory Thursday that completed a season sweep at home over the Houston Astros.
Beltran's double put St. Louis up 5-3, rewarding Jaime Garcia (5-7) for keeping it close and putting the Cardinals 2½ games up for the second NL wild card with 12 games remaining. They took care of business against the lowly Astros, who absorbed their 102nd loss while leading for a single inning in the three-game series.
The Cardinals were 6-0 at home against Houston, their first season series sweep in St. Louis since 1996.
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Bud Norris (5-13) allowed five runs on five hits and five walks in 5 1-3 innings for Houston after getting sent back to the team hotel Wednesday night suffering from flu-like symptoms. He's 0-12 with a 6.34 ERA in 18 starts since May 21 but with a lot of hard luck, too, with eight quality starts in his last 13 outings.
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Craig also doubled and has three homers and 15 RBIs in 11 games against the Astros this year. He's a career .412 hitter against the Astros with six homers and 24 RBIs in 20 games.
Jason Motte finished for his 38th save in 45 chances and third of the series after the Astros tested the setup men.
Fernando Salas struck out Jose Altuve and pinch hitter Brett Wallace with the bases loaded to end the eighth after Mitchell Boggs and Marc Rzepczynski combined to issue three walks in four at-bats, and Edward Mujica surrendered an RBI single to Brandon Barnes in the seventh.
Norris, who entered the game 4-2 with a 2.93 ERA in St. Louis, walked Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma with one out in the sixth and was lifted after throwing 111 pitches. Both scored easily on Beltran's drive off Wesley Wright to the base of the wall in left-center.
Beltran was batting .296 with a National League-leading 65 RBIs at the All-Star break but is hitting just .229 with 24 RBIs since. He's begun to pick it up lately, going 9 for 19 during a six-game hitting streak.
Garcia is 2-5 with a 5.67 ERA in 10 road starts, but 3-2 with a 2.84 in eight home starts.
Brandon Laird walked on a full count with the bases loaded and two outs in the first to give the Astros their first run off a Cardinals starter in the series. Matt Carpenter and Matt Holliday singled with one out in the bottom of the first ahead of Craig's 22nd homer, also Craig's sixth hit in 12 at-bats against Norris — including two homers and seven RBIs.
Maxwell had an RBI double and Laird added a run-scoring single in the third with a grounder that struck the second base bag. This time the Cardinals failed to answer, leaving the bases loaded when Kozma took a called third strike on a full count after fouling off a pair of pitches.
NOTES: Maxwell made an excellent sliding catch on Pete Kozma's foul pop-up near the stands down the RF line, upending 1B Brandon Laird in the process. Laird stayed in the game after a visit from the trainer and interim manager Tony DeFrancesco. ... RHP Chris Carpenter makes his season debut in Chicago Friday, opposing the Cubs' Chris Volstad (3-10, 6.26). RHP Edgar Gonzalez (2-1, 4.40) opposes LHP Jeff Locke (0-1, 5.49) as the Astros begin a three-game series in Pittsburgh. ... Maxwell is 5 for 8 against Garcia with a homer and four RBIs.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.