By Chris Abshire

HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON) — The Astros remain mired in an August slump, and even their supposedly renewed ace couldn’t shake it.

Dallas Keuchel allowed six runs in five innings and change in a home-run happy affair, as the Cardinals prevailed with an 8-5 win on Tuesday night in Minute Maid Park.

Jedd Gyorko provided the big blow with a three-run homer in the sixth off Pat Neshek following Keuchel’s departure, but the southpaw was still the pitcher of record, taking his 12th loss in 2016.

The reigning American League Cy Young winner struck out seven but squandered a lead Houston wrested back from St. Louis after after falling behind early.

The Cardinals plated a pair of runs on three first-inning hits, but the Astros tied it up moments later on Alex Bregman’s first career Major-League home run. That briefly quieted the several thousand St. Louis transplants and Cards fans in Houston’s home park.

Still, the tone was set. Even though the Astros ultimately built a two-run lead, it wasn’t enough.

“This was definitely the most frustrating loss of the season, just because of the way we bounced back and had a lead at home,” a frustrated Keuchel said. “I have to be better than that.”

Keuchel surrendered a game-tying two-run homer to Tommy Pham in the fifth, changing the tenor of the game.

But the six-run tally was almost a mystery to Keuchel and Houston manager A.J. Hinch, who said the Cardinals benefitted from some seeing-eye hits against the shift. Even Pham’s homer was a looping slice out to right field that barely cleared the fence.

“It was a weird night… He threw fine, but the bookends of it are going to be disappointing for him,” Hinch said.

Added Keuchel: “They weren’t hitting them hard, but they seemed to find holes. That’s tough luck, it just is. It’s not like they were hitting me out of the park.”

The Astros offense didn’t help Keuchel out. Houston left nine men on base, seven of them during Keuchel’s five innings of work.

“We have to be perfect right now it feels like, and our margin for error is small,” Hinch said. “Can’t leave five guys on in the first two innings like that.”

Carlos Correa extended his hitting streak to 11 games and Jose Altuve’s three-hit night gave him 1,000 career hits faster than any player in Astros franchise history.

Jason Castro and Marwin Gonzalez added solo home runs for the Astros, who are now 6-9 in August.

Their margin for error in the playoff chase keeps getting thinner, too. Houston now trails Baltimore and Boston for the two AL Wild Card spots by 5.5 games with 43 games remaining.

Such regression to date from 2015’s playoff push is partly due to Keuchel and the struggles he displayed against Houston’s old National League Central rivals.

Keuchel has now allowed 18 home runs this season — one more than he gave up in 2015 — and the Astros have now lost four of his past five starts. One year after being the AL’s best pitcher, Keuchel is 7-12 with a 4.76 ERA.

The teams wrap up this brief two-game series with a Wednesday matinee at 1:10 p.m. CT in Minute Maid Park, as Doug Fister will oppose Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez.


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