A couple of late home runs and an RBI single weren’t enough for the Cardinals in a 5-4 loss to the Astros on Wednesday night in Houston. Down 5-1, Albert Pujols hit his Major League-leading 15th home run in the seventh inning and Hector Luna hit his second of the year in the eighth to cut the Astros’ lead to 5-3.

In the ninth, the Cardinals started a rally against Houston closer Brad Lidge. John Rodriguez started the inning with a lead-off double. Next up was Albert Pujols, who was facing Lidge for the first time since launching the game-winning moon shot against him in Game 5 of the 2005 NLCS. This time, Pujols hit a long fly ball to center field for the first out of the inning.

Jim Edmonds was up next and he got to Lidge, knocking in Rodriguez with a single to make it 5-4. Juan Encarnacion was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with one out. Scott Spiezio, who homered earlier in the game, struck out and Aaron Miles grounded out to end the game.

Houston jumped on Cardinals starter Jason Marquis with three runs in the first inning. Lance Berkman doubled in Craig Biggio and Willy Taveras. Jason Lane knocked in Berkman with a sacrifice fly.

After Spiezio’s blast in the second, it stayed 3-1 until the sixth inning, when Taveras tripled to bring home Biggio, then Berkman doubled again to score Taveras.

Marquis (3-3) left the game in the sixth inning and was charged with the loss, his third straight. His counterpart, Roy Oswalt, was in command the whole night. Oswalt (5-1) surrendered four hits and no walks with five strikeouts over eight innings. Lidge, despite the slip ups in the ninth, earned his 10th save, which ties him with Jonathan Papelbon of the Red Sox for the MLB lead.

The Cardinals have lost three in a row.

Starting pitcher Mark Mulder has been sent back to St. Louis to have his back examined. He’s been suffering tightness. He’s expected to start on Sunday against the Marlins.