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STL@HOU: Berkman breaks up Norris' no-no with a homer

HOUSTON -- The last time Lance Berkman played in Houston, the Astros fans cheered their former hero. On Wednesday they booed him.

Berkman broke up Bud Norris' ho-hitter with a two-out home run to right field in the seventh inning. It was Berkman's 14th homer of the season and fourth against his former team.

But the Cardinals weren't able to muster much else in the way of offense -- just two hits overall -- in a 4-1 defeat at Minute Maid Park.

"I hit it pretty good," Berkman said of the fastball he sent out. "I didn't catch all of it, but I thought I had enough of it to get it out."

Norris (4-4) gave up only the homer to Berkman in eight innings of work. Albert Pujols collected the only other St. Louis hit with a double off reliever Mark Melancon in the ninth.

"We all know Lance," Norris said. "He played here for a long time, and he's such an amazing hitter. I threw the pitch I wanted to throw and definitely hit my spot, but he put a good swing on it."

Some players claim they aren't aware when the other team is working on a no-hitter. Not Berkman. It was definitely on his mind when he came up in the seventh.

"I knew about it in the fourth inning," he said.

Berkman, who went 1-for-3 with a walk, maintaining his .329 average, was impressed by Norris.

"This dude has great stuff, a great mentality," Berkman said. "He reminds me a lot of Roger Clemens in terms of his aggressiveness and his mound presence. That's about as high of praise as I can give somebody. The last step for Bud is just consistency."

Ryan Theriot's 20-game hitting streak ended with his 0-for-2 night. He walked in his first two plate appearances against Norris.

"It wasn't like [Norris] was ahead of the batters all night," Theriot said. "We were getting in good hitter's counts and swinging at his pitch. I was 2-0, and he made a real good pitch low and away, and I popped up to right field.

"He's got a really, really good fastball. A lot of movement. You can tell he's out there competing, giving you everything he's got. A lot of the guys who are really good and tough to hit have that extra tool, that competitiveness.

"He's a gamer. He comes right at you. I never had a pitch out over the plate for me to do anything with. He stayed on the corners. Every pitch he threw had a purpose."

Theriot showed no disappointment in his hitting streak ending with only two official at-bats.

"That's not frustrating," he said. "Twenty games is a long way away from any significance. You just want to go out there and get on base, and I did. That's all I'm trying to do."

Manager Tony La Russa offered a simple explanation for his team's loss.

"We got outplayed, outpitched, so they won the game," La Russa said. "I think [Norris] pitched a winning game. We hit several balls hard that they turned into double plays. He definitely pitched well enough to win. I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about their staff."

"As is the case with most no-hit bids, we hit several balls really good that were right at people that turned into double plays," added Berkman. "Albert hit that ball about 410 feet [to center in the seventh, just before the home run]. It's a homer just about everyplace else in the big leagues."

The Cardinals worked Norris for five walks but grounded into three double plays in the first five innings.

Left-hander Jaime Garcia (6-2) was nowhere near as sharp, surrendering seven hits and three earned runs before exiting in favor of a pinch-hitter in the sixth.

"I was keeping the ball up, and I didn't do a good job of getting ahead," Garcia said. "[It was] one of those days that your stuff is not there. You have to be able to keep your head in the game and make adjustments. All you can do is learn from this one.

"I didn't even know [Norris] was throwing a no-hitter until I came back out [of the clubhouse] in the seventh inning. It's a tough day. It's a feel of pitches. When I don't have the feeling of my pitches, I get off on my mechanics a little bit."

The Astros scored two runs off Garcia in the third on a Jeff Keppinger single, a Hunter Pence triple and a groundout by Carlos Lee. Jason Michaels singled in Houston's third run off Garcia in the fifth.

"[Garcia] wasn't real sharp," La Russa said. "[But] it wasn't like he stunk up the place, either."

La Russa did receive a solid effort from reliever Ryan Franklin, who gave up just a single to the five batters he faced in 1 1/3 innings.

It was Franklin's first appearance since June 1, when he took the loss in San Francisco.

"We're confident in Ryan," La Russa said of his former closer. "We're counting on him being a contributor."

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