Sitting 12 games under .500 in mid-August, it didn't seem feasible the Milwaukee Brewers would be playing meaningful games at the end of September.
Despite the unlikelihood of them reaching the postseason, the Brewers look to stay in the hunt by beating the Houston Astros in their series finale Sunday at Miller Park.
Milwaukee (81-77) fell to 54-66 with a loss to Philadelphia on Aug. 19 and appeared all but out of the NL playoff chase. It has gone 27-11 since, though, and is four games behind St. Louis for the NL's second wild card with four to play.
With a 9-5 win over Houston and the Cardinals' 6-4, 10-inning loss to Washington on Saturday, the Brewers stayed alive with no room for error. A St. Louis victory also would knock Milwaukee from contention.
Corey Hart , suffering from plantar fascitis in his left foot, homered twice."As long as I can jog it's a lot easier," Hart said. "So, it was a little easier tonight. I'm trying to go as long as I can.
"We've had a few letdowns, so to get the early lead and bang the ball around tonight was nice for us."
Fernando Martinez , Brian Bogusevic and Tyler Greene all hit two-out homers in the ninth to make things interesting for Houston (52-106), which missed its chance to win three straight for the first time in more than four months. The Astros matched last season's franchise record for losses.
"It was nice they didn't quit," DeFrancesco told the team's official website.
The Brewers had lost four of five before Saturday's win, and Mike Fiers hopes to snap out of his own slump Sunday.
Fiers (9-9, 3.55 ERA) hasn't completed five innings in three of his last five starts, including the last two. He allowed three runs and threw 81 pitches in three innings against Pittsburgh on Sept. 20, then gave up four runs and nine hits in 4 1-3 innings of Tuesday's 4-2 loss to Cincinnati.
The right-hander has an 8.03 ERA over his last three starts."I've got to live with it and try to get better," Fiers said.
Fiers pitched well in his only outing versus the Astros, giving up two runs in six innings to beat Jordan Lyles 13-4 on Aug. 1.
Lyles (4-12, 5.44) will oppose Fiers again Sunday, and like his counterpart has been struggling lately.
The right-hander is coming off a second consecutive rough outing, giving up three runs and six hits in four innings of last Sunday's 8-1 loss to Pittsburgh. He allowed four runs and walked four in five innings against Philadelphia in his previous outing Sept. 16.
Houston is 5-19 in Lyles' starts, including three losses to Milwaukee. He is 0-2 with a 5.21 ERA in those outings, allowing a career-worst nine runs Aug. 1.
The Brewers have won 10 of the last 12 meetings at Miller Park, outscoring the Astros by 36 runs in that stretch.
|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 29, 2012||Wily Peralta||Day-to-Day||Sore right bicep|
|September 12, 2012||Carlos Gomez||Day-to-Day||Left game - right quad contusion|
|September 09, 2012||Ryan Braun||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore right wrist|
|September 09, 2012||Corey Hart||Day-to-Day||Left game - sprained left ankle|
|July 29, 2012||Aramis Ramirez||Day-to-Day||Sore left wrist|
|July 17, 2012||Ryan Braun||Day-to-Day||Right thigh strain|
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- The Milwaukee Brewers never expected to have their playoff hopes dashed by the Houston Astros , the worst team in the major leagues.
The Brewers fell flat on Sunday in a 7-0 loss to Houston that officially eliminated Milwaukee from the playoff hunt.
"For us to come out and get shut out, that was probably the last thing that I thought would happen," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "I thought we'd come out and play a good series here against Houston and we didn't. It's hard right now. To play as well as we did to get back in it, this was a very disappointing series."
The Brewers, who reached the NL championship series last year, had surged since mid-August to get back into the postseason race. Milwaukee is 27-12 since being 12 games under .500 on Aug. 19.
But the last-place Astros won two of three at Miller Park to finish off Milwaukee.
"We were supposed to win this series against Houston," Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez said. "For some reason they played good against us."
The victory gave Houston its first series win in Milwaukee since it took two of three in July 2008.
"We're real excited. It's nice to win the series here," Astros manager Tony DeFrancesco said. "That was our goal; win two out of three from these guys and now we go to Chicago and hopefully we'll continue to finish strong."
The Brewers were stymied at home by 21-year-old Astros right-hander Jordan Lyles , who had just one road win this season coming into Sunday's game.
Lyles pitched his first major league shutout and hit his first home run. Lyles (5-12) threw a four-hitter in his first complete game in 40 big league starts.
"It was awesome to finish up this up-and-down season with a pretty good start," Lyles said. He entered the game with a 1-7 record and 6.95 ERA away from Minute Maid Park. He struck out three and walked one.
"He had a little more fire in his eye it looked like," DeFrancesco said. "He was aggressive in the zone, had a good breaking ball. That's a real good hitting team to shut down.
Lyles, Fernando Martinez , Jed Lowrie and Matt Dominguez hit solo home runs.
"We have 11 home runs in the last three games. Thats kind of nice to see these guys not quitting," DeFrancesco said.
Mike Fiers (9-10) struck out 10 in six innings, but also gave up Houston's four home runs. He had gone 1-3 with a 6.97 ERA over his previous five starts and ran into more trouble.
"It was probably the best I've felt all year," Fiers said. "I just wanted to pound the zone. I was going after guys. I was making them swing the bat. They ran into a couple and they missed a couple. "
Fiers pitched consistently well for an extended stretch after being recalled from Triple-A Nashville in May, but his performance fell off considerably in September as the Brewers battled for a playoff spot.
"I got off to a great start and I had a pretty bad September. I think most of it is mental," Fiers said. "I think I was trying to do too much. I think that's why my command was a little off the past few starts."
Roenicke said he has no regrets about leaving Fiers in the rotation.
"You have to have another answer," Roenicke said. "Who else was going to start in his place? He was a guy we know who had been a good starter for us. We were hoping he'd come out and throw like he was before."
Tyler Greene put the Astros ahead 1-0 in the third with an RBI double. Martinez homered the next inning.
Lyles, in his second season in the major leagues, helped himself with his homer in the fifth. Lowrie and Dominguez connected for back-to-back shots in the sixth.
Carlos Corporan added a two-run single in the seventh.
NOTES: The Brewers entered the game leading the National League in home runs (198) and stolen bases (153). Milwaukee is looking to become the first team since the 1996 Colorado Rockies to lead its league in both categories. ... With the outside game-time temperature hovering around 60 degrees, the Brewers opted to play the game with the retractable roof closed.