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STL@HOU: Cardinals score five in the sixth

HOUSTON -- In case ruining Bud Norris' no-hitter with a home run on Wednesday night wasn't enough, left fielder Lance Berkman cemented his presence at his former home on Thursday.

Berkman knocked in the first of the Cardinals' five sixth-inning runs with an RBI single off the left-field wall to break a tie and help the Cardinals cruise to a 9-2 victory, the first Major League win for rookie Lance Lynn.

"Lance has had a great year, and I don't think he's just picking on the Astros, I think it's pretty much everybody," said Ryan Theriot. "He's really swung the bat well. He's been consistent, I guess particularly well here."

Berkman added a solo homer in the ninth inning, extending his home run streak at Minute Maid Park to four straight games. He is 8-for-16 with five home runs and 10 RBIs in those games.

"I've got a different uniform on, but it's still a great place to hit," Berkman said.

Jon Jay began the scorching sixth with a single and moved to second on a walk by Albert Pujols before scoring on Berkman's deep single.

Jay was in the lineup for the second straight game after Allan Craig exited in the first inning of the series opener with a right knee contusion.

Pujols crossed the plate when Mark Hamilton hit into a fielder's choice to Astros second baseman Jeff Keppinger, who fielded the ball, tagged out Berkman and threw home too late to get Pujols.

"That's not how you draw it up," Berkman said. "I'm not sure what happened there. At the last second, I thought, 'Well, don't let him tag you easily to let him turn a quick double play.' It did distract him a little bit."

Tony Cruz then singled, and Colby Rasmus walked to chase Astros starter J.A. Happ, who had cruised through the first five innings but came up short to fall to 3-8.

"It's frustrating," Happ said. "Six or seven games in a row, I start the game and feel like I'm going to go seven or eight innings, and whatever my terrible record, whatever my terrible ERA is, it doesn't make sense. It's not the pitcher I am. I'm going to have to find a way to figure it out."

The Cardinals didn't take their foot off the pedal after Happ left. Reliever Wilton Lopez walked in a run before allowing a two-run double to pinch-hitter Daniel Descalso, who'd stepped in for Lynn.

All five runs scored in the inning were charged to Happ, even though three scored with Lopez on the mound.

The sixth-inning slugfest gave Lynn all the support he'd need to secure his first victory. Lynn allowed just one run in five innings despite putting runners in scoring position in each of the first three frames.

"The first three innings felt like the longest innings of my life," Lynn said. "But after that I started getting in a rhythm and throwing more strikes and getting ahead with good pitches instead of giving them pitches to hit."

The Cardinals never trailed in the game despite being outhit until the sixth inning.

Theriot led off the game with a double to left field, moved to third base on a sacrifice bunt by Jay and scored on a groundout to shortstop by Pujols. Theriot added a solo homer in the eighth inning, his first of the year, one game after his 20-game hitting streak was snapped.

"Everybody played great," Theriot said. "Lance really threw the ball well and pitched really good out of some jams and showed some maturity. It was just a fun game all around."

The Astros answered in the bottom of the first inning with a two-out RBI single by Brett Wallace. Hunter Pence scored on the play after hitting an infield single to extend his hitting streak to a Major League-best 20 games.

The Cardinals mustered just two hits to the Astros' six after three innings, but Lynn kept the score knotted at 1 until the breakout sixth inning.

"I'm convinced we're going to play as hard as we can," said manager Tony La Russa. "It remains to be seen if we're good enough, but there's no way I'd doubt our competitiveness."

Pujols extended his streak of extra-base hits to six games in the seventh inning with a leadoff double and scored later in the inning on a single by Skip Schumaker.

The Astros threatened in the bottom of the seventh, when reliever Miguel Batista loaded the bases with no outs. But Trever Miller entered in relief of Batista and struck out Michael Bourn swinging.

Enter Jason Motte, who allowed an RBI groundout before striking out Pence to end the threat.

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