ST. LOUIS -- Despite his weak condition when he took the mound, Chris Sampson was hoping to give his team five strong innings, maybe six, in the finale with the Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Sampson didn't make it as long as he'd hoped, but that wasn't the reason the Astros lost. One day after lighting up Cardinals pitching for 13 runs, offense was a problem, and the Astros went quietly, losing 3-1.

"[Sampson] did a nice job," manager Phil Garner said. "We were in the ballgame. If you can't score more than one run, than you have trouble."

Sampson, recovering from what some called sinusitis but was later described by Sampson as "a severe upper respiratory infection with flu-like symptoms," did not travel with the Astros to St. Louis on Thursday. Instead, he spent several hours in the hospital, where he was pumped full of fluids and antibiotics in an effort to rush the right-hander through the illness that had taken over his body.

"My body was hurting," Sampson said. "I had no energy; I was out of breath just walking around. I couldn't eat, couldn't drink; I had the chills. I thought I was coming down with a severe flu."

Sampson flew to St. Louis on Saturday night and, still feeling weak, threw himself into his outing against the Cardinals. He was strong in the first three innings, allowing only one hit. But he struggled in the fourth, when the Cardinals did all of their damage.

Adam Kennedy led off with a single to right and moved to third on Chris Duncan's double to center. Albert Pujols popped out to Craig Biggio, but Jim Edmonds drew a walk, which was followed by a two-run single from Scott Rolen.

"The first three innings, I felt pretty good," Sampson said. "It seemed like I hit a wall real fast in the fourth. Mentally, I was there, I was still locked in. Physically and mechanically, I just didn't feel like I could get the ball exactly where I wanted it to go.

"The prime example was the pitch to Rolen that ran back over the plate. It was supposed to be low and away and it ran up the middle."

Sampson went out for the fifth inning and retired David Eckstein on a fly ball to right and Braden Looper on a strikeout. But Kennedy singled, and Garner called for left-hander Trever Miller.

"I thought he did good," Garner said of Sampson. "He was abslutely gassed by the time he got where he was. He did a nice job."

The same could not be said for the offense.

"What offense?" Brad Ausmus asked.

That would be the offense that did very little against Looper and three Cardinals relievers. The Astros scratched out one first-inning run before falling silent for the next eight frames.

The Astros produced one extra-base hit -- Luke Scott's double in the sixth.

"We had some good at-bats; there's no question," Garner said. "It's nice to pat guys on the back for good at-bats but we have to get results, too. We're not getting results when we need to get base hits. We're just not getting base hits when we need them. We're not driving the ball very well, and I don't have an explanation for it."

"We're getting hits," Ausmus said. "We're just having trouble pushing runners across home plate. And over the course of the long haul, if you continue to get hits, eventually, you're going to start driving in runs."

Lance Berkman, hitless in his first three at-bats until he logged an eighth-inning single, took responsibility for his part. He also wondered if the Astros had the "right combination," lineup-wise.

"I don't know if it's the composition of the lineup ... the individual parts of our lineup look pretty good," he said. "We just haven't found the right combination. We've had some good games, but we haven't been consistent.

"I'm certainly to blame for that. We haven't been hitting many home runs. We're going to have to hit a few to have a consistent offense."