HOUSTON -- The Astros have had their way with opposing teams' starting pitchers in the first half of their nine-game homestand, jumping out to early leads en route to building a season-high five-game winning streak that was more impressive than anything they did a year earlier.
With a chance to add to the streak and sweep the defending World Series champion Cardinals out of Minute Maid Park on Sunday afternoon, St. Louis right-hander Adam Wainwright decided to turn the tables on the upstart Astros.
Wainwright, who missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, had his best performance of the season in holding the Astros to seven hits and one run in seven innings as the Cardinals snapped the Astros' winning streak with an 8-1 win.
"You have to prepare for him as if he's going to be on, because he's got more of a track record of being on than not," Astros right-fielder Brian Bogusevic said. "We were going to try to work him into favorable counts and work him into a mistake or two if it presents itself, but he didn't make too many today. He was real tough on us."
Wainwright improved to 10-1 with a 1.56 ERA in 12 career starts against the Astros, as well as improving to 4-0 in five starts at Minute Maid Park.
"I think today I was just very focused," he said. "I knew we needed to win that game, get some good momentum going and play a tough team in Arizona. I don't think it had anything to do with who I was facing more than just me out there executing."
The Cardinals' lineup, still missing Lance Berkman, provided plenty of offensive support, staking Wainwright to a 4-0 lead after three innings that was reminiscent of the kind of quick starts the Astros put on their opponents during their winning streak.
Allen Craig hit a two-run home run in the first inning, and Tyler Greene went 3-for-3 with two homers for his first career two-homer day. His two-run shot to right field off Astros starter J.A. Happ in the fourth inning put the Cardinals in control, 6-0, and he tagged reliever Fernando Abad for a solo shot in the eighth.
"I was just able to get some fastballs out over the plate, put a really good swing on them," Greene said. "[Happ's] fastball's got a little lift to it. I think when he's on, he's elevating that thing too. I think he was right in that middle zone and I was able to do some damage."
Happ walked four batters and allowed six hits and five earned runs in five innings as he took his fifth consecutive loss against the Cardinals. His two-out walk in the first inning allowed Craig a chance to get the Cardinals on the board with a homer.
"A couple of the walks definitely hurt, and they had some good swings," Happ said. "Greene put a good swing on that ball. It was kind of up and away, but it was probably into his swing path, too. It kind of wasn't a good pitch, and I got beat on a couple of big hits."
The only run the Astros pushed across came on a wild pitch in the fourth inning. They only walked one time and were held to eight hits -- all singles. Jose Altuve (2-for-4) had his league-leading 15th multi-hit game of the year, and Carlos Lee went 2-for-4 to raise his average to .289.
For the Astros, it was simply too much Wainwright.
"He doesn't throw as hard as he normally does, but he had just as much movement," outfielder Travis Buck said. "I couldn't imagine facing him when he was before surgery. He kept us off-balance and was hitting his spots and had a lot of movement with all his pitches. Guys like that, you've got to try to scrap as many runs as you can because you know you're not going to get that many opportunities. He definitely did his job today."
The Astros did provide perhaps the highlight of the game when right fielder Bogusevic reached high over the wall in right field in the seventh inning to rob David Freese of what surely would have been a home run.
"The ball carries pretty well to right field when the roof is closed, and it was going to travel a little bit," Bogusevic said. "I just tried to get back as far as I could early and try to make a play on it."
Astros center fielder Jordan Schafer saw his streak of reaching base come to an end after going 0-for-4. Schafer will have to settle for being tied with Dennis Menke (1969) for the club record for reaching base in 25 consecutive games to start the season.