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The Houston Astros won 6-2 Sunday, taking two of three over the Cardinals at Busch Stadlum. Sunday's game at Busch Stadium drew a sellout crowd of 46,714.

Pinch-hitter Dexter Fowler led off the ninth with a solo homer to right. It was his 12th homer of the season.

Paul Goldschmidt singled in the ninth, seeing his streak of games with a home run ended at six games.

The Cardinals rallied late to beat the Astros 5-3 on Friday, but Houston won 8-2 Saturday night and 6-2 on Sunday afternoon.

"We measure ourselves against ourselves," Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. "I understand the question. They’re a good team, but we have our own standards.”

The Chicago Cubs won 11-4 at Milwaukee on Sunday and created a virtual three-way tie atop the National League Central. The Cardinals and Cubs each have a 56-49 record for a .533 winning percentage; the Cubs will play a three-game series at Busch Stadium starting Tuesday. Milwaukee is one game back at (56-51).

The Astros wrapped up their scoring in the eighth inning. After George Springer doubled and Jose Altuve singled, Michael Brantley doubled to the gap in right-center to make it 6-1.

On the play, the relay from Harrison Bader to Kolten Wong to Matt Wieters cut down Altuve at the plate.

The Cardinals finally broke through in the sixth inning, getting a two-out double from pinch-hitter Rangel Ravelo at Busch Stadium to drive in a run and cut the Houston lead to 5-1.

Ravelo drove in Kolten Wong, who had singled with two outs.

The Astros pulled away in the fifth inning, getting a three-run homer from Jose Altuve to push the lead to 5-0.

Houston pitcher Wade Miley led off the fifth with a walk and George Springer followed with a double. Altuve's homer was the 1,500th hit of his career.

“Baseball 101," Shildt said when asked about walking the pitcher to start the inning. "We’ve done a really, really good job of forcing guys to put the ball in play, make quality pitches and get ahead in counts, dominating favorable counts. 

“Clearly, yesterday, a lot of few passes (four by Ponce de Leon in first three innings) and the leadoff walk to Miley set the tone for that inning in the fifth. 

“We couldn’t right our ship. We’ve been able to cover some damage but we weren’t able to do it there.”

Hudson, a sinkerballer, tied a career-high by surrendering three homers.

"Nice swings. Good-hitting club," Schildt said. "Got some balls in the middle of the plate, a little flatter with some pitches and they made him pay.”

After Michael Brantley singled and Yordan Alvarez singled, Cardinals starter Dakota Hudson was lifted in favor of John Brebbia, who ended the threat by striking out Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel and getting Aledmys on a flyout.

With two outs in the Houston third, Yordan Alvarez added the visitors' lead when he ripped a 3-2 pitch into the Cardinals bullpen to stretch the Astros lead to 2-0.

In the bottom of the third, the Redbirds loaded the bases with one out on singles from Tommy Edman, Jose Martinez and Tyler O'Neill. But Astros starter Wade Miley struck out Paul DeJong on a 3-2 pitch and then retired Matt Wieters on a groundout to end the threat.

In the Cardinals fourth, Kolten Wong was hit by pitch with one out and moved to third on a two-out single by Tommy Edman. But Jose Martinez struck out to end the threat.

It took just two pitches for Houston to take the lead Sunday afternoon at Busch Stadium.

George Springer, the Astros leadoff man, hit the second pitch he saw from Dakota Hudson over the wall in left to give the visitors the early lead. It was the 31st career homer to lead off a game for Springer, who leads the majors this season with seven.

In the home half of the first, Jose Martinez walked with one out and Tyler O'Neil did the same with two outs. But the Cardinals failed to score.

Jose Altuve, who had three hits, connected for a three-run homer in the fifth that broke the game open. It was the third of three long balls for the Astros, who got solo shots from George Springer (three hits) in the first and Yordan Alvarez (two hits) in the third.

Michael Brantley (RBI) and Yuli Gurriel also had a two-hit game for the visitors, who outhit the Redbirds 13-7.

Lefthander Wade Miley (9-4) started and pitched five shutout innings for the win. He scattered five hits and allowed a pair of walks and a hit batsmen.

Tommy Edman led off and had a pair of hits to lead the Cardinals. Dakota Hudson (10-5) started and took the loss, pitching into the fifth. He allowed eight hits and five earned runs.

Cardinals reliever Tyler Webb struck out the side in the Houston ninth.

“We had some opportunities, for sure, that we missed. We left some guys out there and weren’t able to execute. You give some credit to Miley, who made some really good pitches in those situations.

“We had some opportunities that would have created a different ballgame for us,'' Shildt said. "But I’ll say this. Those guys laid it out there today. I love this team. They absolutely laid it out, brought it and I just really appreciate the way they went about it today.

“They got after it. All the way, they were in it. We missed some opportunities. But we’re going to take a day off and get ready to go on Tuesday.”

HUDSON STARTS SERIES FINALE

Dakota Hudson gets the start as the Cardinals look to finish strong in a three-game set with the Houston Astros Sunday afternoon at Busch Stadium.

The Cards beat the Astros 5-3 on Friday but lost 8-2 on Saturday night.

Both teams enter Sunday's action in first place. The Cardinals (56-48) are one game ahead of both the Chicago Cubs (55-49) and the Milwaukee Brewers (56-50) in the NL Central while the Astros (67-39) hold an eight-game lead over the Oakland A's in the AL West.

Hudson, who's 10-4 with a 3.61 ERA, has been solid all season for the Cards.

“He's been a pillar of the staff, a stalwart,'' manager Mike Shildt said prior to Sunday's game. “He's a guy that goes out and takes the ball and gets better as the game goes. When he runs into adversity, he cinches his belt and figures out a way to bear down and improve as the game goes. When he has his good stuff early he's tough and goes deep in games. Looking for him to give us a really good chance to win a ballgame.”

Wade Miley has been similarly good for the Astros; he's 8-4 this season with a 3.16 ERA. In his last five starts, he's 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA.

Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt tied a club record Saturday, matching Matt Carpenter and Mark McGwire on Saturday night by homering in his sixth consecutive game.

“If we don't have any traffic, you know, then he may not hit leading off the next inning,'' Shildt said. “But we had some traffic and the way he's been swinging the bat and the way our guys compete, he absolutely gets that at-bat and a chance to make it a four-run game and all bets are off.”

FOWLER AVAILABLE SUNDAY

Shildt said that outfielder Dexter Fowler, who's slowed by a foot injury, could contribute off the bench if needed on Sunday.

“He can contribute. He still has some affects fro the other day, but we feel comfortable that it's not anything long-term,'' the manager said. “Another day of keeping him off his feet.... But I think he's available for anything we need for him today _ just have to do it off the bench.”

The manager is looking forward to Harrison Bader getting a chance against Miley, a lefthander.

“He's in there against a lefty, which is a better matchup for Harrison,'' Shildt said. “Ready to watch him play. I think he's going to have a really good day,'' Shildt said.

The manager continued: “It's about showing consistent, quality at-bats, no different than anybody else in our lineup.”

WACHA STEPS UP

With starter Daniel Ponce de Leon struggling, Michael Wacha provided a much-needed solid performance in relief on Saturday.

“It was a big outing for Michael,” Shildt said. “You know, we sat there in the fifth thinking about hitting for him but really liked his stuff and felt we could get another couple of innings. That that at-bat, sacrificing a potential out there was worth the two innings. Also, stretched Michael out a little bit and see what that looks like. Again, the bullpen's been carrying a lot of the mail, so we wanted to give those guys a little bit more of a blow there.”

Shildt continued: “It was a win win in a loss. And that's still a win and there's carryover to that.”

Here are Sunday's lineups:

CARDINALS

Tommy Edman, 3B

Jose Martinez, RF

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B

Tyler O'Neill, LF

Paul DeJong, SS

Matt Wieters, C

Harrison Bader, CF

Kolten Wong, 2B

Dakota Hudson, P

ASTROS

George Springer, CF

Jose Altuve, 2B

Michael Brantley, RF

Yordan Alvarez, LF

Carlos Correa, SS

Yuli Gurriel, 1B

Aledmys Diaz, 3B

Max Stassi, C

Wade Miley, P

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Joe Lyons is a sportswriter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.