HOUSTON (AP) — Nolan Arenado homered, Alec Burleson added an RBI double to back up a solid start by Miles Mikolas and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Houston Astros 4-2 on Wednesday.

Burleson’s hit made it 3-0 in the fifth inning and Arenado added an insurance run in the sixth after the Astros got within 1 in the bottom of the fifth.

Mikolas (4-6) allowed five hits and two runs in six innings. Ryan Helsley pitched a perfect ninth for his 20th save.

Manager Oliver Marmol pulled Mikolas after just 62 pitches.

“We’ve got three guys that are really good on the back end,” Marmol said. “He’s going right through the lane. At that point it’s not pitch count. It’s more familiarity with the hitters that got him.”

Marmol was impressed with improvements Mikolas has made in his last few starts.

“He’s been commanding the baseball really well,” Marmol said. “He’s been at the bottom a lot more. His mix has been good. He’s made some small adjustments. For the most part he’s just in control of every at-bat. There’s a purpose behind what he’s throwing and it’s looked really good.”

Yainer Diaz homered for a third straight game and Trey Cabbage hit his first home run of the season, but the Astros were unable to complete the series sweep on a day when top hitters Kyle Tucker and Alex Bregman sat out with injuries.

Tucker missed his second game after fouling a ball off his shin Monday night and Bregman was a late scratch with a sore left hand after being hit by a pitch Tuesday night. Bregman said after the game that he was feeling better and expected to play Friday.

Manager Joe Espada was asked about missing two key members of the team Wednesday.

“It’s not ideal… those are two very important pieces of our ballclub,” he said. “But we’ve got to find ways to grind through stretches like this.”

Brandon Crawford got things going for St. Louis when he doubled to start the third and moved to third base on a groundout by Pedro Pagés. The Cardinals took a 1-0 lead when Crawford scored on a sacrifice fly by Michael Siani.

Pagés walked with one out in the fifth and advanced to second on a groundout by Siani. An RBI single by Brendan Donovan made it 2-0. Burleson then smacked a double to the corner of right field to score Donovan and push the lead to 3-0.

“I love hitting here, love being here,” Burleson said. “The ball goes, you can see well here. I was fortunate to put some good swings on balls and fortunate for them to drop.”

The Astros had managed just two singles when Diaz homered to the seats in right field with one out in the bottom of the inning to cut the lead to 3-1. Cabbage followed with his shot to the bullpen in right-center field to get the Astros within 3-2.

Arenado homered to left field off Ronel Blanco (5-2) with one out in the sixth to extend the lead to 4-2.

Blanco allowed five hits and four runs in 5 2/3 innings for his second straight loss after opening the season 5-0, highlighted by a no-hitter in his season debut.

“He threw the ball really well,” Espada said. “He was in the zone, made all his pitches really well, just missed a few spots there. But again another quality start, he threw the ball really well, gave us a chance to win.”


Astros: RHPs Cristian Javier and José Urquidy are both scheduled to have right elbow surgery this week and are out for the season. Urquidy’s surgery is set for Wednesday and Javier’s is scheduled for Thursday. … Espada said Tucker was still really sore, but the Astros hoped he could return Friday.


Cardinals: RHP Sonny Gray (7-3, 3.00 ERA) starts for St. Louis against RHP (Cal Quantrill (4-4, 3.84) in the first of four games against Colorado on Thursday night.

Astros: They’re off Thursday before LHP Framber Valdez (4-3, 3.95) starts the opener of a series against the Los Angeles Angels on Friday night.