ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals traded for some much-needed bullpen depth on Wednesday, but the help didn't come soon enough.
Reliever Mitchell Boggs took the loss after allowing the go-ahead run in the ninth inning as the Cardinals fell, 4-2, to the Astros at Busch Stadium, spoiling another strong performance from starter Chris Carpenter.
Boggs pitched a scoreless eighth, but was tagged for two runs in the ninth as the Astros rallied to snap a five-game losing streak. After pitching himself out of a bases-loaded situation in his first inning, things turned against Boggs when he took the hill again.
He gave up a leadoff double to Clint Barmes, and after a walk to Michael Bourn, Jose Altuve brought two runs home with a single to center field. Jon Jay's throw eluded catcher Yadier Molina and caromed off the Astros' Jason Bourgeois, who was on-deck, toward the backstop, which allowed the second run to cross.
The Cardinals immediately reacted to the play, and manager Tony La Russa came out to argue with the umpires. One day after the Cardinals were on the right side of a home run review, the call went against them on Wednesday night.
"There was a question about whether the baserunner made an attempt to get out of the way," La Russa said. "The umpires decided he did. I didn't see him do a real good job of it. You just can't stand there and let the ball hit you, you have to let the defense make its plays."
The Cardinals had a chance to tie the game in the ninth inning as Albert Pujols stepped to the plate with two men in scoring position and two outs. With first base open, the Astros could have walked the slugger, but with Matt Holliday on deck having belted twos double in the game, Houston manager Brad Mills elected to go after Pujols.
The decision paid off, and Mark Melancon got Pujols to strike out to end the game.
"We talked about it a lot," Mills said. "Any time you're going to pitch or not pitch to this guy, it's tough. There's no doubt. The way things were, we thought we'd rather go ahead and have Mark face him and go from there."
Carpenter turned in another solid outing for the Cards, going seven innings and allowing two runs on eight hits. The right-hander struck out eight against one walk and made just one mistake on a two-run home run to Barmes. It wasn't a bad pitch, but a solid piece of hitting by the shortstop.
"The pitch to Barmes was a good pitch, I don't second guess it one bit," Carpenter said. "He put a good swing on it, no question about it."
Carpenter found himself in a bases-loaded jam in the fifth with one out, but was able to pitch himself out of trouble. He induced Bourgeois to ground into a force out at home and then escaped the frame unscathed by getting Carlos Lee to foul out.
He left after throwing 102 pitches, and said he felt like he could have gone longer. But La Russa decided to turn to his bullpen in the eighth, as he thought Carpenter was fatigued.
"It wouldn't have been a good move [to keep him in]," La Russa said. "He was out of gas, out of bullets."
Carpenter's outing was resigned to the same fate as many of his earlier starts this season, when he started the year 1-7 and was on the wrong end of some bad luck. Carpenter had won his last five decisions and the Cardinals were unbeaten in his previous six starts before Wednesday's loss.
"I felt good, I felt like my location was good, I felt good the whole game," Carpenter said.
He turned in another workman-like performance only to watch the game slip away in the ninth. In his last 10 starts, Carpenter has gone at least six innings.
The Cardinals acquired three pitchers on Wednesday from the Toronto Blue Jays in starter Edwin Jackson and relievers Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski. St. Louis sent Colby Rasmus to Toronto in the deal. Jackson joined the club in the dugout in the sixth inning while Dotel and Rzepczynski are scheduled to report on Thursday.
"A ballclub gets excited when a front office and ownership makes moves to try to get you better," Carpenter said. "To bring in some help there in the bullpen with Dotel gives us experience."
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, the reinforcements didn't arrive quickly enough.
The loss dropped St. Louis into second place in the National League Central, as they trail the Brewers, who beat the Cubs on Wednesday, by a half-game.
Austin Laymance is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.