Final in 10

Series: Game 3 of 3

Houston won 2-1

Game 1: Tuesday, September 14
St. Louis5
Game 2: Wednesday, September 15
St. Louis4
Game 3: Thursday, September 16
in 10
St. Louis3

Astros 8

(80-67, 41-34 away)

Cardinals 3

(95-50, 49-25 home)

8:10 PM ET, September 16, 2004

Busch Stadium I, St. Louis, Missouri 

12345678910 R H E
HOU 203110100 - 8 - -
STL 100101000 - 3 - -

W: C. Harville (2-2)

L: J. Marquis (14-5)

Astros win series 2-1

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Suddenly, the St. Louis Cardinals can't do anything right.

Jeff Kent had two doubles and four RBI, and the slumping Cardinals committed a season-high four errors to help the Houston Astros snap Jason Marquis' 11-game winning streak with an 8-3 victory on Thursday night.

"You don't want to sugarcoat it," manager Tony La Russa said. "Bad ballgame. Good for them, bad for us."

The Astros took two of three from the NL Central leaders, staying two games behind the Giants in the wild-card race and keeping the Cardinals' magic number for clinching the division at four.

"The bottom line is we still have to win," Astros manager Phil Garner said. "They've made a mockery of the division race and to take two of three is very important."

La Russa said he wouldn't use this game as a motivational tool.

"This is not TV or the movies," La Russa said. "Our club, they're very realistic, very honest with themselves. They know we're not playing as good as we can play, so let's do something about it."

The Cardinals have lost six of nine, and have lost three straight series after winning 11 of the previous 14 series.

"We just haven't been playing ball like we're capable of, but at least it's happening now," Reggie Sanders said. "There's a time when you're going to go through a down slide and this is just our time."

Albert Pujols and John Mabry homered for the Cardinals. Pujols has a career-best 44 home runs -- one more than last year -- and his first-inning shot off Brandon Backe was his first long ball in 11 games.

St. Louis had two errors in the third and two more in the fourth, contributing to three unearned runs.

Hector Luna, subbing for Edgar Renteria at shortstop, had two miscues to equal his season total. He lost his grip on a relay to the plate and threw the ball straight into the turf, then heaved the ball into the stands on Brad Ausmus' grounder in the fourth.

Kent has six RBI in the last two games, giving him 98 on the season, and Mike Lamb added his 13th homer for the Astros.

"You've got to play good baseball in September if you want to get yourselves in the playoffs," Kent said. "Unless you're the Cardinals, and then you just bury everybody."

Marquis (14-5) lost for the first time in 18 starts since May 26, giving up seven runs -- four earned -- on five hits in six innings. His winning streak was the longest by a Cardinals pitcher since John Tudor also won 11 straight decisions in 1985.

"Obviously, it would have been nice to keep it going," Marquis said. "But it's one of those things where it's going to end sometime and unfortunately it happened tonight."

Marquis hurt himself both in the field and on the bases. He flubbed Lamb's high chopper to the mound in the third, allowing a run to score, and settled for a single on a drive to the center-field wall in the third after he missed the first-base bag. The Cardinals ended up leaving the bases loaded.

Kent had a two-run double in the first on a bloop to shallow center that a hard-charging Jim Edmonds trapped before the ball popped out of his glove. A pair of walks by Marquis set the table for Kent's RBI double in the third, and Luna's aborted relay handed Houston another run for a 5-1 lead. Kent added a sacrifice fly in the seventh.

Chad Harville (2-2) relieved Backe in the fifth after the Cardinals put two men on with no outs. Harville induced Pujols into a double play, then struck out Edmonds. The right-hander hasn't allowed an earned run in his last 11 outings, covering 11 1-3 innings.

Mabry's home run in the fourth inning ended an 0-for-12 slump.

Game notes

La Russa managed his 3,943rd game, passing Gene Mauch for fifth place on the career list. ... Kent has five four-RBI games this season. ... The Astros went 4-4 on their road trip. ... Pujols is 2-for-4 against Backe with two homers. ... Lance Berkman was 7-for-11 with three RBI in the series. ... St. Louis reliever Julian Tavarez left with a leg cramp after striking out Berkman in the ninth, but expects to be available on Friday.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press