July 08, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros outfielder Jordan Schafer (1) slides safely into home plate as Milwaukee Brewers catcher Martin Maldonado (12) attempts to apply the tag in the first inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-US PRESSWIRE
HR: Rickie Weeks (8)
MVP: Ryan Braun (.377)
LVP: Zack Greinke (-.162)
Starting his second game in a row--the first Brewer to do so since CC Sabathia started the games before and after the 2008 All-Star break--Zack Greinke did not seem to have his best stuff. Greinke gave up three runs immediately in the first inning. The bottom of the first began with a Jordan Schafer single and a Jose Altuve RBI double, then a wild pitch to move Altuve to third base. Altuve would score on a J.D. Martinez one-out single. A strikeout, single, and walk later and the Astros had the bases loaded with two outs. Chris Snyder drew an RBI walk before Jordan Lyles struck out to end the inning. Greinke settled in after that, allowing a single in the second inning and striking out the side in the third.
Still, that first inning was pretty bad and the walks--especially a walk that brought in a run--were very uncharecteristic of Greinke. His ejection yesterday may have gotten in his head today, but it was still strange to see. Greinke was then pulled after the third inning having thrown 66 pitches. With warm-ups both yesterday and today, I'm guessing he was reaching a pitch-count limit.
Marco Estrada and the Brewers bullpen--yes, the Brewers bullpen--were excellent for the next seven innings as they shut the Astros out. Estrada pitched three no-hit innings with three strikeouts and a walk. Jose Veras, Francisco Rodriguez, and Manny Parra all threw perfect innings with a strikeout apiece. And John Axford gave up a hit but struck out two hitters to preserve the game in the bottom of the tenth. Kudos to all of them. The Brewers bullpen has had some well-documented struggles in 2012, but did an admirable job today.
Still, the Brewers almost did not win this one. The Brewers offense struggled to get much going against Jordan Lyles, who had a 5.40 ERA coming into this game. They scored a run in the second on a Rickie Weeks homer and looked poised to get more: They loaded the bases with two outs, but Nyjer Morgan grounded out to end the inning. The Brewers were hitless for the next three innings before a Ryan Braun double to lead off the sixth. Braun was then driven in by the red-hot Aramis Ramirez to cut the Astros lead to 3-2.
Lyles then held the Brewers hitless in the seventh inning. Overall, his line was 7 IP, 2 ER, 6 Hits, 3 K, and 1 BB. Not a bad night for the young pitcher considering how poorly his season had been going.
Lyles left in line for the win, but that didn't last. Norichiki Aoki led off the ninth with a single, then was bunted to second by Nyjer Morgan. Braun then drove him in to tie the game at three apiece and take the game into extra innings. Braun would end up being directly involved in three of the five Brewers runs in this game. Both he and Rickie Weeks reached base three times.
In the tenth inning, Nyjer Morgan led off with a walk. The Astros then elected to intentionally walk Ryan Braun because, really, why not at that point? Aramis Ramirez then also drew a walk, loading the bases. A Corey Hart single gave the Brewers their first lead of the night, and Rickie Weeks followed that up with an RBI single of his own, giving Milwaukee the 5-3 lead. Martin Maldonado, Cody Ransom, and Carlos Gomez all struck out consecutively to end the Brewers 10th with the bases still loaded.
It wouldn't matter that those runners were stranded, however, as John Axford--shaky at times today--notched his 15th save of the season with a scoreless inning.
The Brewers are off for the next few days due to the All-Star break. They'll be back on Friday the 13th to open second-half play against the surging Pirates.