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Cardinals vs. Astros, Sept. 21

The Cardinals shaved their magic number to three Monday night with a dominating 7-3 win over the Astros.

But the bigger news is that Kyle Lohse had a strong outing in his second start in a month. Lohse pitched six innings, allowing five hits and three runs in the bandbox that is Houston's home field. Two of the three runs the Astros plated came in the form of solo home runs, one from Miguel Tejada and the other from Lance Berkman.

Lohse's pitches were lively and he stayed out of trouble for the most part, which is remarkable because several of the Astros hitters in the past have had his number. Houston starter Wandy Rodriguez, on the other hand, usually dominates the Cardinals hitters. But on Monday he was cuffed for nine hits and six runs in five innings.

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Cardinals third baseman Mark DeRosa hits his second home run of the night in the sixth inning Monday against the Astros. AP photo.

Although Julio Lugo started at second base, Skip Schumaker moved there late in the game after starting in centerfield for the first time in who knows how long. He had a chance in the ninth to show off how much he has improved with his infield work making a terrific diving grab and throw to keep things from getting interesting in the final frame.

Cardinals Star of the Game: Mark DeRosa has struggled lately both in batting average and in finding his power stroke. But he was 3-for-4 Monday with a pair of homers and a double to drive in four runs. Hopefully, it's an indication that his sore wrist is doing better.

Lowlight: Former Cardinals pitcher Braden Looper didn't do his former mates any favors. He got pummeled for 10 hits and seven runs in four innings against the Cubs, preventing the Cardinals from lowering their magic number to two and possibly clinching as soon as Tuesday.