Cards falter against Astros

Houston Astros Luke Scott, left, reaches for first base as St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols waits for the throw from pitcher Jeff Weaver, right, in the fourth inning of their baseball game on Tuesday, Sep. 12, 2006, at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Scott w The Associated Press

Houston Astros Luke Scott, left, reaches for first base as St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols waits for the throw from pitcher Jeff Weaver, right, in the fourth inning of their baseball game on Tuesday, Sep. 12, 2006, at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Scott w The Associated Press

By The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS – The Houston Astros are a long shot to make the playoffs. But the defending NL champions did enjoy the tail end of their road trip.

Roy Oswalt pitched shutout ball into the ninth inning and Lance Berkman hit his 40th home run, helping the Astros bounce back from a dispiriting loss to beat the St. Louis Cardinals 5-1 Wednesday in the finale of a nine-game swing.

“I hope it carries over and gives us a little momentum going back home,” manager Phil Garner said after the Astros concluded the trip 4-5. “We need to re-establish ourselves.”

The Astros ended a three-game slide and averted a sweep against the division leader. Albert Pujols hit a two-run double on Tuesday with two outs in the ninth off the oft-rattled Brad Lidge to snatch a 6-5 victory.

On Tuesday, Albert Pujols hit a two-run double with two outs in the ninth off the oft-rattled Brad Lidge for a 6-5 victory.

Even with the win, Houston was six games behind the Cardinals in the Central and four games back in the wild card with 17 games remaining.

“We’re so far behind that we have to win every series for sure,” Oswalt said. “Then we’ll just see what it ends up.”

Oswalt is 4-0 in his last five starts, matching his season-best, four-game winning streak, and has won five straight September decisions dating back to last season.