Cardinals blank Astros, remain wild card contenders

Wednesday, September 19, 2012 | 10:43 p.m. CDT
Cardinals' Yadier Molina, right, is congratulated by teammates in the dugout after hitting a solo home run during the fourth inning against the Houston Astros.

 ST. LOUIS — David Freese and Yadier Molina both connected for their 20th home run of the season, and Lance Lynn threw 6 1/3 shutout innings to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a 5-0 win over the Houston Astros on Wednesday night.

The Cardinals, who have won seven straight against Houston, moved two games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the race for the second wild card spot in the National League. Milwaukee is 2 1/2 games back.

St. Louis has won three in a row for the first time since a four-game streak from Aug. 21 to  24.

The Cardinals have five players with at least 20 homers for the first time in franchise history. Carlos Beltran (29), Matt Holliday (27) and Allen Craig (21) already hit the milestone.

Lynn (16-7), in his second start following a demotion to the bullpen, leads the staff in wins. He allowed three hits, struck out five and walked two in a 102-pitch stint.

Freese hit a two-run homer off Lucas Harrell (10-10) in the second inning. Harrell, winless in six starts, gave up three runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out seven and walked one.

Craig led off the second with a single to set the stage for Freese's home run shot. Molina homered in the fourth with one out to push St. Louis' lead to 3-0.

Lynn retired nine consecutive batters after Jose Altuve's double to start the game. The All-Star was removed from the rotation after an Aug. 24 start that gave him a 6.56 ERA for the month. Lynn made six relief appearances before returning to the rotation last Thursday at the Los Angeles Dodgers. He gave up one run and five hits in six innings of a 2-1 win.

Jason Motte recorded his 37th save in 44 opportunities. Motte entered the game in the ninth inning with the bases loaded and one out and ended the game by striking out Chris Snyder and Jimmy Paredes. Mitchell Boggs had struck out the side in the eighth on 12 pitches.

The Cardinals tacked on a pair of runs in the eighth on successive hits by Jon Jay, Beltran and Holliday and a sacrifice fly by Craig.

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