HOUSTON -- The Cardinals reshuffled their lineup just before their 6-5 loss to the Astros.

Shortstop Ryan Theriot, scheduled to bat leadoff, was removed from the starting lineup because of right rib-cage soreness.

Right fielder John Jay, originally scheduled to bat second, was moved into Theriot's leadoff spot.

Center fielder Colby Rasmus was moved up from fifth to the No. 2 spot in the batting order.

Second baseman Nick Punto moved to Theriot's position at shortstop and batted seventh.

David Freese moved into the starting lineup at third base and batted fifth and Daniel Descalso, who was supposed to play third base, shifted to second base and remained in the eighth spot in the order.

Pujols doesn't start, pinch-hits in eighth

HOUSTON -- First baseman Albert Pujols was not in the starting lineup for the Cardinals on Tuesday night against the Astros. But Pujols said prior to the game that he is available to pinch-hit, if needed.

Sure enough, he entered the game in the eighth inning, walking. He remained in the game at first base as the Cardinals first took a late lead, then coughed it up in the ninth inning of a 6-5 loss.

Pujols left Sunday night's game against the Reds with a mild tightening of his left hamstring. Pujols appeared to suffer the injury while running out a ground ball in the seventh inning.

The perennial All-Star first baseman said he expects to be back in the lineup for Wednesday's game in Houston. Lance Berkman, who was making his return to Houston, started at first base on Tuesday, and left fielder Matt Holliday replaced Pujols in the third spot in the lineup.

"I could have played," Pujols said before the game. "They want to make sure I go through a workout routine and everything is good. I'm doing everything. It feels good today and I'm pretty sure it will feel [better] tomorrow. I'm going to prepare like I'm playing." Pujols stretched, took batting practice and infield practice Tuesday.

"I hope to be [in the lineup Wednesday]," he said.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said that resting Pujols for Tuesday's game was "precautionary." "He's ready to play, wants to play," La Russa said. "But the trainers felt he should get a good workout before we put him in any game action. He hasn't been on the field since Sunday. "

Pujols said he spent Monday doing leg exercises at home and undergoing treatment on the hamstring.

"I feel pretty good," he said. "It's part of playing every day. I want to be healthy all year. Injures aren't something you can control. If it would have been a playoff [game], there's nobody that can take me out of the lineup. It's April and I don't want it to get worse. I felt better [Monday]. It could have been really bad."

Pujols has played at least 143 games in all 10 of his seasons in the Major Leagues and played 157 or more games in seven of his 10 years.

"It's tough," he said of sitting out Tuesday. "This is what I love to do. I've been blessed with some great talent. I have a pretty good group of guys in the clubhouse. It's obviously different [not playing]. You don't know what to do when you have a day off."

Cards take day to rest before busy stretch

HOUSTON -- The Cardinals took Monday off after beating the Cincinnati Reds in two of three games over the weekend at Busch Stadium to move into first place in the NL Central.

Manager Tony La Russa liked the idea of his club being off Monday, even if it is still April. It was their third day off this season.

"That was a real rough weather week [in St. Louis]," he said. "We went through a lot. Now we go a couple of weeks without [a day off]."

After leaving Houston, the Cardinals continue their road trip with three games this weekend in Atlanta, then they return home to face Florida Monday.

The Cardinals' next off-day is on Monday, May 9, before playing three games in Chicago and three in Cincinnati.

Cards' flight from beleaguered airport delayed

HOUSTON -- Lambert-St. Louis International Airport suffered serious damage in last weekend's tornadoes, but the Cardinals were able to leave town Monday without any problems -- weather wise.

"It's about 75 percent operational [as of Monday]," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said of the airport.

The Cardinals' departure to Houston was delayed because of equipment problems with the airplane.

They arrived in Houston shortly after 8 p.m. Monday night to begin the three-game series against the Astros.