Posted on August 13, 2012 at 9:01 AM
HOUSTON—The Milwaukee Brewers don’t have a defined closer in a bullpen that’s already blown 22 save chances this season.
Now each reliever has to be ready in case the task of holding a ninth-inning lead falls to him.
On Sunday it was Kameron Loe’s turn and, after a couple of hiccups, he shut down Houston to preserve a 5-3 win and end Milwaukee’s 11-game road losing streak.
“It keeps us on our toes right now,” he said. “I think there’s been a learning process this year for a number of guys, myself included, and you’ve just got to accept the challenges that come along and take it with a smile.”
Yovani Gallardo handled Houston once again and Corey Hart homered for the Brewers.
Milwaukee won on the road for the first time since July 8 at Houston in its last game before the All-Star break. The Brewers had been swept at the Reds, Phillies and Cardinals since then to extend their losing streak to the second-longest in franchise history, and the longest since they lost 17 straight in 1970.
Gallardo (11-8) won his 10th straight start against Houston. He’s the first pitcher to win 10 or more consecutive starts against one opponent since Roy Halladay did it against Montreal/Washington from 2004-11, according to information provided to the Brewers by the Elias Sports Bureau.
The right-hander allowed three runs and struck out eight in 7 2-3 innings.
Gallardo said it’s hard to believe that he’s won that many in a row over the Astros.
“I really try not to look at those numbers like that,” he said. “They made me work today. It seemed like there were a lot of 3-2 counts and taking some pretty good pitches and fouling some pretty good pitches.”
Things got a bit dicey for Loe and Milwaukee’s beleaguered bullpen in the ninth inning after a hit and an error left the tying on second base. But he retired Marwin Gonzalez to get his first save in six tries.
“It felt really good to close it out,” Loe said.
The Brewers have blown four saves on the road since the All-Star break as the bullpen has struggled to find any consistency.
The problems have been wearing on manager Ron Roenicke.
“It’s hard. It really is,” he said. “I feel for the guys. I like the guys that are down there and I know how badly they want to do well and it’s hard when guys struggle. Those things are hard on coaching staffs because you care about the players, you know what they’re struggling through and you feel like it’s your job to get them going. And when they don’t, it’s hard on you.”
Hart broke an 0-for-17 streak with Milwaukee’s first home run of the series, a solo shot to center field to lead off the sixth inning that made it 4-2.
Jordan Lyles (2-9) allowed eight hits and four runs—two earned—in seven innings for his fifth straight loss. He hasn’t won since June 26.
The Astros wore their blue-and-gold star throwback uniforms for the third straight game after picking up dramatic last at-bat wins in them Friday and Saturday night. But the luck of those uniforms, which were worn from 1994-99, wore off on Sunday as last-place Houston lost for the 35th time in 41 games.
Consecutive doubles by Tyler Greene and Gonzalez gave Houston a 1-0 lead in the first. Carlos Gomez, Jean Segura and Gallardo each singled with two outs to tie it at 1-all in the second.
Segura singled to start the fifth inning and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Norichika Aoki reached on an error by Gonzalez at shortstop and stole second, and Segura beat the throw home on a grounder by Rickie Weeks for a 2-1 lead. Ryan Braun added an RBI grounder.
Martin Maldonado’s RBI double in the eighth inning put Milwaukee up 5-2.
“I know (Gonzalez) feels terrible, but we’ve talked many times about giving teams extra outs,” Houston manager Brad Mills said. “That’s exactly what we did that inning, and that’s what hurt us.”
Scott Moore’s run-scoring single with two outs in the eighth inning chased Gallardo. He was replaced by Jose Veras, who struck out Ben Francisco to end the inning.