After snapping a four-game skid with a win on Friday, the Brewers look to continue their dominance over the Astros as the teams continue a three-game series at Minute Maid Park on Saturday.
Entering this series, Milwaukee (61-55) had lost 14 of 20 games overall and 14 of 17 on the road, including three straight by a combined score of 36-10 at Colorado in its previous series. But the Brewers took advantage of one of their favorite opponents on Friday, pulling out a 5-4, 11-inning victory to snap their road losing streak at six games.
Corey Hart hit a two-out triple to plate the go-ahead run as the Brewers improved to 8-2 against the Astros (51-64) this year. They have outscored them 31-14 to win five straight in the season series.
“It’s huge, especially after how we got whipped in Colorado,” Hart said. “We’re trying to figure out to how to win games on the road. We were down and to be able to come back and win, it’s a big step.”
Friday’s victory enabled the Brewers to remain a half-game ahead of the second-place Chicago Cubs, who beat Colorado 6-2.
“Every game is a must win,” Milwaukee manager Ned Yost said. “When you’re struggling a little bit, you’ve got to scratch and claw and get yourself out of it. That’s what we did today.”
Even though it’s in fourth place in the division, Houston has become a major factor in the NL Central race. The Astros swept a three-game series against the Cubs before this weekend’s series against the Brewers, helping Milwaukee maintain its edge over Chicago in the standings despite the Brewers’ losing streak.
All-Star outfielder Carlos Lee, who played for the Brewers from 2005-06, was 7-for-10 in the series against the Cubs, but went 1-for-5 Friday to fall to 10-for-41 (.244) against his former club this season. Overall, he’s batting .406 (26-for-64) with five homers in 16 games since July 24.
For the Brewers to extend their win streak against the Astros, they’ll have to try to solve Houston starter Wandy Rodriguez (7-10, 4.50 ERA), who has been one of the majors’ best pitchers at home this season.
The Astros improved to 9-2 in Rodriguez’s home starts with a 2-1, 10-inning victory over the Cubs on Monday. The left-hander held the Cubs to one run and four hits in eight innings while striking out a career-high nine.
He lowered his ERA to 1.69 at Minute Maid Park, where he is 6-2. Only San Diego’s Chris Young, the majors’ ERA leader, has a better mark at home at 0.73.
“He was definitely on top of his game,” manager Phil Garner told the Astros’ official Web site. “It’s a whole different ballgame pitching at home. He’s throwing strikes. He’s aggressive. His fastball has good location, and his breaking ball has been excellent at home. It’s sharp with good depth to it.”
Rodriguez is 2-4 with a 5.60 ERA in nine career games, including eight starts, against the Brewers. He has given up six runs in each of his two starts against them this year, posting a 9.82 ERA in those games—both road losses.
Jeff Suppan (8-9, 4.84) will start for the Brewers in search of his first win in more than seven weeks. The right-hander is 0-2 with a 4.70 ERA in eight starts since beating Kansas City on June 22.
On Sunday, he held Philadelphia to one run and five hits in 5 2-3 innings, leaving with a 6-1 lead. But the Brewers gave up five runs in the ninth inning and fell 8-6 in 11 innings.
Astros first baseman Lance Berkman is 12-for-27 (.444) with three homers against Suppan. Infielder Mark Loretta, who made his major league debut with Milwaukee in 1995 and played parts of eight seasons with the Brewers, is 7-for-14 with a homer against Suppan.