HOUSTON - Houston Astros starter Dallas Keuchel struggled on Tuesday night to find an explanation for his recent struggles.
In Houston's 8-5 loss to St. Louis, the Cardinals roughed up Keuchel as the Astros dropped their third straight.
Keuchel (7-12) had his second rough start in the last two weeks. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner allowed six runs and six hits in five innings Tuesday after allowing seven runs in five innings in Detroit on July 31, matching his season high for runs allowed.
Keuchel pointed to slow first-inning starts as a trend in his recent string of outings. He allowed two runs in the first inning before Houston later gave him a 4-2 lead in the fourth.
"This is probably the most frustrating loss of the season because of the way we bounced back and got four runs off Jaime and had a lead at home," Keuchel said. "I just have to be better than that."
Tommy Pham and Jedd Gyorko each homered to help the Cardinals overcome a rocky outing from starter Jaime Garcia (10-8). Garcia gave up five runs and seven hits in five innings, including three home runs.
Seung Hwan Oh pitched a scoreless ninth, striking out three, for his 12th save.
Astros second baseman Jose Altuve singled off Oh in the ninth for his 1,000th career hit, becoming the fastest player in franchise history to reach the milestone, doing it in 786 games. Cesar Cedeno previously held the record, reaching 1,000 hits in 889 games, one game faster than Jeff Bagwell.
"I feel right now like I don't want to stop," Altuve said. "I want to going, keep getting better, help my team. I'm not going to be good until I take my team to the World Series."
Astros manager A.J. Hinch called Altuve "exceptional" and said he was happy he got the hit in front of his home crowd.
"I'm proud of how he goes about, and I'm proud of what he represents," Hinch said. "I'm glad he's ours. We're scratching the surface on what's possible."
Houston's Alex Bregman hit his first major league home run in the first in his 78th career at-bat. Houston erased a 2-0 first-inning deficit with Bregman's homer, a solo homer from Marwin Gonzalez and an RBI single from Altuve.
"It got us right back in the game to answer (them)," Hinch said of Bregman, who has found momentum after a poor start to his career. "He's a good player, and he's making adjustments."
The Cardinals evened the score 4-4 in the fifth with Pham's two-run homer and later extended the lead to 8-4 when Gyorko homered off reliever Pat Neshek for his 18th of the season.
Yadier Molina added two RBIs for St. Louis despite going 0 for 4.
Jason Castro had a solo home run for Houston in the sixth. Carlos Correa singled in the seventh to extend his career-long hitting streak to 11 games, the second longest active hitting streak in the AL behind Mike Napoli (16 games). Correa is batting .381 during the streak.
Astros: P Lance McCullers (elbow soreness) will take another week away from throwing, manager A.J. Hinch said. McCullers was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Aug. 3. ... IF Luis Valbuena (hamstring) ran bases Tuesday and took batting practice, with expectations of starting a rehab assignment soon. Valbuena strained his right hamstring on July 27. ... OF Colby Rasmus did light conditioning Tuesday for the first time after undergoing a procedure last Wednesday to remove a cyst in his right ear. He was placed on the disabled list on Aug. 7 and hopes to return around the start of September.
Cardinals: Carlos Martinez (10-7, 3.34) will try to get his first win in four starts. He has a 7.36 ERA across his first two August starts after entering the month with a 2.99 ERA on the season.
Astros: Doug Fister (11-7, 3.61) looks to replicate earlier success against St. Louis. He allowed five hits and two runs in 7 1/3 innings against the Cardinals on June 14, earning the win. He also won his last start against Minnesota despite allowing five runs and eight hits in seven innings.
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