Astros 6, Brewers 1
HOUSTON (AP)—Astros manager Phil Garner has his own magic number, and Houston moved toward it Sunday.
Wandy Rodriguez pitched a career-high 7 1-3 innings, and Lance Berkman put Houston ahead to stay with a two-run, first-inning double in a 6-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers that extended the Astros’ winning streak to five.
Houston, which had just six hits, owns a 1 1/2 -game lead over Philadelphia in the NL wild-card race. The Phillies lost Sunday night at Florida, which is 2 1/2 back of the Astros (81-68).
“This was a big win for us,” Garner said. “But our goal is to get 15 games over .500 and then assess where we are.”
Garner wouldn’t say what was magical about 15 games over.
“I just feel if we go to 15 over we’ll be in pretty good position,” Garner said. “We’re playing confidently now. At least we’re pitching confidently. I don’t know if we’re hitting as confidently as I’d like.”
Houston started Sunday second in the league in pitching with a team ERA of 3.52 but was next to last in team batting at .256.
“We knew our pitching staff was the backbone of the team,” catcher Brad Ausmus said. “The question mark is our hitting. It isn’t over yet. We’ve still got two weeks to go, and the offense has to come around. We’re day to day with our offense.”
The pitching has been especially good the last six games allowing nine runs.
“Wandy did a super job today and that was huge for us,” Garner said. “Our pitching has done a marvelous job the last six games. You have to feel good any time they pitch, but I’d like to see our offense come around a little. The guys are grinding and by me saying this, it’ll probably put more pressure on them.”
Eric Bruntlett went 3-for-3 with four runs scored and two stolen bases as the Astros completed a three-game sweep. The Brewers think Houston is capable of winning the wild-card spot.
“Rodriguez was really good today,” manager Ned Yost said. “The last time we faced him he was just OK.”
Chris Capuano (17-10) gave up four runs, five hits and five walks in five innings.
“Capuano had too many walks,” Yost said. “We have been struggling to get runs, and we just can’t afford to put runners on base. He just struggled all day long.”
Capuano had won his previous three starts and five of six.
“Today I just didn’t have a great feel,” he said. “My command was off. This was a terrible series for us all around, both pitching and hitting. The walks kind of hurt me. I was trying to establish the inside part of the plate. I just wasn’t getting the calls.”
Rodriguez (10-8) allowed one run and four hits, earning a standing ovation from the crowd as he left with one out in the eighth. Three relievers completed the five-hitter.
Bruntlett tied career highs with the three-hit game and his fourth home run of the season.
Milwaukee dropped to 73-76. The Brewers, held scoreless for 19 consecutive innings before Jeff Cirillo’s RBI grounder in the eighth, are trying to avoid finishing with a losing record for the 13th straight season.
Berkman’s double and Bruntlett’s leadoff homer in the third built a 3-0 lead. Bruntlett doubled and stole third in the fifth inning, then scored on Jason Lane’s single. Bruntlett singled in the seventh, stole second and scored on Jose Vizcaino’s sacrifice fly to make it 5-0. Lamb added a sacrifice fly in the eighth.
Bruntlett hit four homers last season. He also had three hits July 31 against the New York Mets this season. … Adam Everett missed his third straight game to be with his 8-month-old daughter Peyton, who had surgery Friday in Kennesaw, Ga. Everett is expected back Monday, when the Astros start a four-game series at Pittsburgh. … Third base umpire Andy Fletcher called time out just as Capuano began to deliver a pitch in the fifth inning when a number fell out of the hand-operated scoreboard onto the field. LF Carlos Lee retrieved the metal number, handed it back to the scoreboard worker and