HOUSTON -- St. Louis starter Matt Morris didn't let the aura of Houston's Roger Clemens faze him on Saturday afternoon.
But Mike Lamb? That was a different story.
Morris kept the Astros at bay until the fourth inning of Game 3, when Lamb popped an opposite-field homer over the left-field wall for two runs. Lamb's one-out double in the sixth proved to be the undoing of Morris and the Cardinals, who fell, 4-3, at Minute Maid Park in front of a sellout house of 42,823.
Lamb is 5-for-14 with three homers against Morris in career regular-season play. He was 2-for-3 against him on Saturday. The double, on a cut fastball that Morris admitted was poorly located, turned out to be more damaging because it led to the Astros breaking a 2-2 tie. Ultimately, the Astros took a 2-1 series lead.
"The sixth inning was the important inning to go out there and get a zero," said Morris, who gave up four runs, three earned, in 5 1/3 innings. "I gave up a couple."
Despite facing one of the all-time great pitchers, Morris didn't have to dominate.
Clemens struck out just one while giving up six hits and walking two in six innings, but he made enough key pitches to force the Cardinals to play small ball for their two runs off him. However, that was good enough for a 2-2 tie going into the bottom of the sixth.
But Lamb, who took advantage of his park by popping a well-located pitch for a Minute Maid homer in the fourth, stung a two-strike pitch to the hill in center field to start the sixth-inning rally. It was nothing new.
"He's a smart hitter," Morris said. "He can hit a breaking ball. He hits the ball to left field, he pulls the ball. I don't know. I haven't made that great of pitches on him, either, so I think it's the combination of the two."
Subsequent singles by Jason Lane and Brad Ausmus came with two strikes. There went any momentum the Cards gained from tying it against Clemens.
"We just didn't make the finishing pitch and that's the two runs that beat us," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.
Lamb is about as baffled with his success against Morris as the pitcher is.
"Fifteen, 20 years from now, if somebody asks somebody, do you remember Matt Morris or Mike Lamb, I'm sure it's going to be Matt Morris," Lamb said. "He's a good pitcher, he has been for a while now.
"You know, it's one of those things. There are games where your teammates are getting hits and you can't seem to get one, and you can't explain that, either."
The loss obscures the fact that Morris has had quality stuff low in the strike zone throughout the postseason. Even the Lamb homer would be considered a good pitch anywhere except Minute Maid, where the tall fence is just 315 feet from the plate along the left-field line.
"Everything is fine, location[-wise]," Morris said. "I didn't execute a couple of pitches in the sixth and that hurt me."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.