Cards miss chance to clinch in 3-0 loss to Astros -

Cards miss chance to clinch in 3-0 loss to Astros

HOUSTON (AP) -- Bud Norris and the Houston Astros put the St. Louis Cardinals' celebration on ice.

The Astros' 24-year-old rookie shut out the Cardinals for the second time and St. Louis missed a chance to capture the NL Central in a 3-0 loss to the Astros on Wednesday night.

The magic number for St. Louis dropped to one when the Cubs lost in Milwaukee before this game ended. But Norris (6-3) pitched six shutout innings and Jose Valverde pitched a scoreless ninth for his 28th save.

The Cardinals had 25 cases of champagne waiting in the clubhouse, but the bottles will remain corked for at least another day.

St. Louis can clinch the division from their hotel in Colorado on Thursday, a day off, if the Cubs lose the opener of a weekend series in San Francisco. The Cardinals open a series against the Rockies on Friday.

Carlos Lee drove in two runs for the Astros, who snapped a nine-game losing streak.

John Smoltz (1-2) gave up two runs on five hits. The Cardinals mustered only seven hits after reaching 15 in the first two games in Houston.

Norris gave up four hits and two walks in the first three innings, but the Cardinals stranded all six runners.

Kazuo Matsui led off the Houston half of the third with a double to the left-field corner. Matsui advanced on Norris' bunt and scored on Miguel Tejada's two-out single for a 1-0 lead.

The Astros ended the fourth and sixth innings with double plays as the Cardinals continue to have problems with Norris. The right-hander won his major league debut in St. Louis on Aug. 2, allowing two hits in seven shutout innings.

Tejada doubled in the Astros' sixth, took third on Lance Berkman's flyout and came home on Lee's sacrifice fly to deep left to make it 2-0.

Jeff Fulchino relieved Norris for the seventh and struck out the side.

St. Louis had the tying run at the plate after Colby Rasmus beat out an infield single with one out in the eighth against LaTroy Hawkins. Albert Pujols lined out and Matt Holliday grounded into a fielder's choice.

Dennys Reyes walked the speedy Michael Bourn with no outs in the eighth and Ryan Franklin relieved.

Franklin struck out Tejada, but then threw a wild pitch to Berkman, allowing Bourn to take second. Berkman was intentionally walked before Lee blooped an RBI single to center.

The manual scoreboard in left field posted the final score of the Cubs-Brewers game moments before Franklin struck out Hunter Pence to end the eighth.

NOTES: The Cardinals recalled shortstop Tyler Greene, third baseman David Freese, catcher Matt Pagnozzi and right-handed pitcher Josh Kinney from Triple-A Memphis. The Redbirds lost to Durham in the Triple-A championship game on Tuesday. ... Astros RHP Alberto Arias underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Wednesday. Arias (2-1, 3.35 ERA) has been on the disabled list since Aug. 24. ... Tejada's first hit gave him 180 for the season, a record for an Astros shortstop.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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