St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Brad Penny throws during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Houston Astros on Wednesday, April 14, 2010, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) By Jeff Roberson
Houston Astros starting pitcher Brett Myers reacts after striking out St. Louis Cardinals' Skip Schumaker with two men on to end the seventh inning of a baseball game Wednesday, April 14, 2010, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) By Jeff Roberson
St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols, right, and Felipe Lopez celebrate the Cardinals' 2-1 victory over the Houston Astros in a baseball game Wednesday, April 14, 2010, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) By Jeff Roberson
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Houston dropped to 0-8 Wednesday night, with Brad Penny and Albert Pujols combining to give the St. Louis Cardinals a 2-1 win over the Astros.
New Astros manager Brad Mills held a rare, off-day optional workout Tuesday at Busch Stadium in an effort to help players relax, but to no avail as Houston scored one or fewer runs for the fifth time.
Another loss in the series finale Thursday would match the franchise-worst 0-9 start in 1983. The Astros recovered that year, finishing 85-77.
Penny (1-0) allowed an unearned run on three hits in seven innings. Pujols drove in a run for his major league-leading 15th RBI.
Brett Myers (0-1) gave up only one earned run in seven innings for Houston and still lost. The Astros remained the lone winless team in the majors, mostly because of their big league-low 14 runs.
Penny has given up only one earned run in 14 innings with the Cardinals, who signed him to a one-year free agent contract in the offseason as the rotation replacement for Joel Pineiro.
The bullpen failed Penny in his St. Louis debut but through this time. Dennys Reyes got Kaz Matsui on a bases-loaded groundout to end the eighth and Ryan Franklin worked a perfect ninth against the 3-4-5 hitters for his third save in three chances.
Penny struck out four and walked none in an economical outing, requiring 89 pitches and retiring 16 of 17 batters between the first and sixth.
Michael Bourn was 2 for 3, his third straight two-hit game for Houston. But cleanup hitter Carlos Lee was 0 for 4 including a double play ball and weak flyout for the second out in the ninth, and is 3 for 31 on the season with no RBIs.
Catcher Yadier Molina's signature pickoff move backfired in the first, helping the Astros take their second lead of the season. Bourn singled to start the game and took second when Molina's threw well wide of first base and Pujols' outstretched glove on the first pitch to Matsui. Bourn advanced on Matsui's groundout before scoring on a sacrifice fly by Pedro Feliz.
Molina won his second straight Gold Glove last year, committing only five errors, and led the majors with eight pickoffs.
The Cardinals jumped on Myers with a walk and two hits to start the bottom of the first, and Pujols' single tied it. The go-ahead run scored when shortstop Tommy Manzella misplayed Colby Rasmus' two-out grounder. NOTES: Ryan Ludwick was 6 for 9 against Myers after singling in the first, then grounded out and flied out the next two trips. (Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)