HOUSTON -- The Astros boarded a bus for the airport late Thursday night and left Minute Maid Park as quickly as possible. Not even going on the road, where the team has stumbled to a 6-19 record this year, sounds too bad after what the Astros had to endure against the Cardinals.
St. Louis belted four home runs off four different pitchers, including a grand slam by David Freese in a seven-run seventh inning that blew things wide open, and handed the Astros their worst loss of the season, 14-2, in the series finale.
Houston pitchers, who had retired the final 20 Cardinals batters they faced and struck out a season-high 15 a night earlier, set season highs in runs, hits (16) and walks allowed (10) en route to losing for the 10th time in 12 games.
"You have to have a quick memory," said Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie, who went 2-for-4 with his team-leading 10th homer of the season.
Things got so out of hand for the Astros that outfielder Brian Bogusevic, who was drafted as a pitcher out of Tulane University in 2005, made his first appearance in a Major League game on the mound and allowed a two-run homer to Freese in the ninth. He was, however, the only Astros pitcher not to walk a batter.
Astros starter J.A. Happ breezed through two scoreless innings, enduring a 42-pitch third inning in which the Cardinals took the lead and took a piece of Happ with them. He threw 4 2/3 innings and gave up four runs and five hits to lose his sixth consecutive decision to St. Louis.
"I felt real good coming out, and then in that third, I just made it harder than it needed to be," Happ said. "And they did a good job of fouling a lot of pitches off and battled and I let a couple guys go. That was the story. I gave them three runs and they didn't hit the ball hard for that, so it was frustrating."
Behind a homer from Lowrie in the first and an RBI double by Chris Johnson in the second, the Astros led the Cardinals, 2-0, before starter Lance Lynn settled down. Lynn won his Major League-high ninth game by holding the Astros to two runs and six hits while striking out a career-high 11 batters in six innings.
"It's just a couple bad pitches that they put good swings on and hit some extra-base hits," said Lynn, who improved to 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in three games against Houston. "It's a part of it. I was able to stop them there and we were able to score a bunch of runs, so it was a good night."
Happ gave up a single to Tyler Greene to start the third and then battled Shane Robinson for 12 pitches before he lost him on a walk. The three runs the Cardinals scored in the third were on a bunt single by Rafael Furcal, a sacrifice fly by Carlos Beltran and bloop single by Allen Craig.
"There's nothing you can really do about that, but I would have liked to have gotten a couple of the guys earlier [in the inning]," Happ said.
Beltran hit a solo homer in the fifth and Furcal drove in a run in the sixth to make it 5-2, then the Cardinals sent 11 batters to the plate in the seventh inning and exploded for seven runs, including a grand slam by Freese off Wesley Wright, to stretch the lead to 12-2.
Astros reliever Rhiner Cruz suffered the brunt of the seventh-inning onslaught, allowing three hits and five runs in one inning of work. David Carpenter allowed three hits and one run in one inning, and Wright gave up two hits and two runs in one-third of an inning.
"It's always tough because you're in a situation where you have to try to get through it," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "Fortunately, we've got a guy like Bogey who was a pitcher before and were able to get through it. That's huge to be able to do that. It's the worst thing a manager has to get through."
Bogusevic hadn't pitched in a game since July 4, 2008, when he made his final appearance at Double-A Corpus Christi before being switched to the outfield. He was a two-way star at Tulane.
"I just tried to throw strikes and get it over with," Bogusevic said. "It felt kind of strange, but once I knew I could throw strikes it became comfortable."
With Bogusevic on the mound, third baseman Chris Johnson moved to the outfield and catcher Chris Snyder made his fourth career appearance at first base. He committed an error when he tripped near the line trying to catch a pop up. Earlier in the game, Carpenter singled in his first career plate appearance using a Bud Norris bat.
Yep, it was that kind of night for the Astros.
"It's not like we didn't really pound the ball against [Lynn]," Lowrie said. "We got a couple of runs early, a couple of sharp base hits, but then it seemed like he kept the ball down really well and didn't really make any mistakes past the second inning."