Their playoff chances only a faint mathematical possibility, the Milwaukee Brewers hope to begin an improbable run for the second NL wild-card spot Saturday night when they continue their series versus the Houston Astros .
Milwaukee (80-77) is five games behind St. Louis with five games remaining, meaning it would need to run the table while the Cardinals suffer an unlikely skid to cap the regular season. The Brewers suffered a crushing 7-6 defeat Friday that all but ended their hopes of returning to the postseason for a second straight year."We didn't play well today," manager Ron Roenicke said. "We didn't pitch well. We gave them a couple of runs in the fourth inning with the defense. We did a nice job coming back, making it interesting with the offense. It just wasn't a well-played game."
While it was only the 11th loss in 37 games for Milwaukee, it could not have come at a more inopportune time as St. Louis appears to have found its footing this past week to secure the last playoff spot. Marco Estrada (4-7, 3.87 ERA) now becomes the last hope for the Brewers to extend their playoff chances for at least one more day.
But the right-hander needs a strong bounce-back effort to win for the third time in four starts. After stringing together 13 2-3 scoreless innings in winning back-to-back outings, Estrada was roughed up for seven runs and eight hits Monday in four innings - partially due to outfielder Carlos Gomez losing a ball in the sun in a six-run fourth - of a 12-2 defeat at Washington."It felt like it was a blink of an eye," Estrada said. "I looked up, the score was 2-1, and I was like, `All right, let's get this guy out. Pop fly.' Next thing you know, it's 7-1. I couldn't believe it."
Estrada has no record in two starts and a relief outing versus Houston this year, giving up seven runs in 17 innings.
Bo Porter got his first win as manager of the Astros (52-105), who avoided matching last year's franchise record for losses in a season for the second straight game. Houston has played .500 ball over its last 20 games but has not won three in a row since a four-game run May 21-25.
Dallas Keuchel (3-7, 4.66) will try to become the first Astros pitcher to win three consecutive starts since Bud Norris reeled off four straight May 5-21. The rookie left-hander, who will be making his first road start since Aug. 23, limited Pittsburgh to a solo homer and three other hits in seven innings of a 4-1 victory last Saturday and has allowed two runs in 16 1-3 innings covering his last three starts."He kept us in the game," Astros interim manager Tony DeFrancesco said following that outing. "He made some big pitches when he had to. I thought he was in control the whole game."He turned the order over three times, and that's something we are expecting out of him. Hopefully he can be a big part of the rotation next year."
Keuchel is 0-1 in two starts versus Milwaukee this year and was pounded in the lone outing at Miller Park on July 31, yielding seven runs and seven hits with a season-high six walks in four-plus innings of a 10-1 defeat.
|September 21, 2012||Edgar Gonzalez||Day-to-Day||Strained right hamstring|
|September 07, 2012||Jose Altuve||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left abdominal|
|August 30, 2012||Marwin Gonzalez||Day-to-Day||Torn ligament, left ankle|
|August 28, 2012||Bud Norris||Day-to-Day||Left game - blister|
|August 22, 2012||Justin Maxwell||Day-to-Day||Bruised right index finger|
|August 07, 2012||Jordan Schafer||15-Day DL||Left shoulder separation|
|September 12, 2012||Carlos Gomez||Day-to-Day||Left game - right quad contusion|
|September 09, 2012||Corey Hart||Day-to-Day||Left game - sprained left ankle|
|September 09, 2012||Ryan Braun||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore right wrist|
|July 29, 2012||Aramis Ramirez||Day-to-Day||Sore left wrist|
|July 17, 2012||Ryan Braun||Day-to-Day||Right thigh strain|
|June 15, 2012||Shaun Marcum||60-Day DL||Right elbow tightness|
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- It's a lot easier for Corey Hart to jog around the bases then sprint these days.
Hart, suffering from a foot injury that makes it difficult to run hard, homered twice, Marco Estrada struck out 11 in eight shutout innings, and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Houston Astros 9-5 on Saturday night.
"As long as I can jog it's a lot easier," said Hart, who missed eight games this month with plantar fascitis in his left foot. "So, it was a little easier tonight. I'm trying to go as long as I can."
So are the Brewers, who barely remained in the playoff race when Washington beat St. Louis, 6-4, in 10 innings on Saturday night. Milwaukee is four games behind St. Louis with four games remaining, so any Brewers loss or Cardinals win would mean elimination.
Hart drove in four runs to back Estrada (5-7), who won for the third time in four starts. The right-hander allowed only four singles and a walk after giving up six earned runs in just four innings against Washington in his last outing.
Estrada allowed the leadoff runner to reach base in the second through fifth innings, but retired the final 12 batters he faced. The right-hander said pitching coach Rick Kranitz "got on him" in the locker room midway through the game.
"That shook me up," he said. "I was trying too hard early. He told me, `Hey, relax. Let's go."'
Estrada spends time between innings in the locker room to cool off and initially described Kranitz as "yelling" at him.
"It was a little pep talk, that's all," he said. "I was a little erratic out there. I wasn't really throwing strikes."
Houston hit three home runs in the ninth to score five times off reliever Livan Hernandez . Fernando Martinez and Brian Bogusevic hit two-run homers and Tyler Greene added a solo shot.
Dallas Keuchel (3-8) was coming off three consecutive solid outings, but was battered for seven runs in just 2 1-3 innings as Houston lost its 106th game, tying the franchise record for losses set last year.
Interim manager Tony DeFrancesco said Keuchel had trouble with his command and velocity.
"That's a pretty potent offense over there and they showed why they're where they're at," he said. "Once you fall behind, he didn't have much left. He didn't have enough velocity, just one of those days for him."
Hart and Aramis Ramirez hit consecutive home runs in the second inning for a 2-0 lead. Hart added a three-run homer, his 30th, in the third to make it 7-0.
Hart was in a 4-for-28 slump since returning from the injury, but had little trouble against Keuchel. He grimaced while jogging the bases after his first home run, but remained in the game and hit another.
Ramirez and Norichika Aoki each had three hits while Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez had two hits apiece.
Keuchel had given up only two runs in 16 1-3 innings over his first three September starts. The left-hander retired the side in order in the first, but allowed consecutive home runs to Ramirez, his 27th, and Hart in the second.
Jonathan Lucroy followed with a single, Jean Segura walked and Estrada's sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third with two outs. Aoki then hit a bloop single to center, scoring both runners for a 4-0 lead.
Braun and Ramirez each singled to open the third and Hart connected.
Houston's best threat against Estrada came in the fourth when the first two batters singled. Scott Moore was then picked off second by Estrada, Fernando Martinez struck out and Jason Castro grounded out to end the inning.
The victory ensured the Brewers (81-77) will finish with at least a .500 record a year after going 96-66 and winning the NL Central. Milwaukee, though, was 54-66 on Aug. 19 and has gone 27-11 since.
NOTES: The Astros never got a runner past second base off Estrada. ... Brewers RHP Wily Peralta still had soreness in his right biceps during a bullpen session Saturday and manager Ron Roenicke said the rookie would not make his scheduled start Tuesday against San Diego. . Hart has hit 87 home runs the past three seasons. ... Milwaukee's Eric Farris had a pinch-hit infield single in the eighth, his first major league hit.