Astros-Brewers Preview

There are still two months left in the season, but the Milwaukee

Brewers aren’t giving any indication that they’re going to make a

move up the standings.

The Houston Astros’ recent bevy of moves show they’re certainly

looking toward 2013.

Milwaukee will try to avoid a 10th loss in 11 games Monday night

at Miller Park while the major league-worst Astros look to win two

straight for the first time in more than a month.

The Brewers (45-56) were eight games out in the NL Central and

six back of the second wild card at the All-Star break, but those

deficits have since doubled. Another bullpen meltdown in Sunday’s

11-10, 11-inning loss to Washington left the club a season-worst 11

games below .500.

“We battled to the end, we just didn’t pitch well out of the

bullpen again,” manager Ron Roenicke said after his relievers

yielded nine runs – eight in the last four innings – and blew a

major league-leading 20th save.

While the slumping Brewers could be in sell mode with Tuesday’s

non-waiver trade deadline approaching, the Astros (35-68) have been

dealing for the past few weeks. After completing their fifth trade

of the month earlier Sunday, sending third baseman Chris Johnson to

Arizona for two prospects, the Astros defeated Pittsburgh 9-5 to

end a team-record 12-game skid

“To go through a homestand like this (1-6), that’s a big breath

of fresh air to be able to (win) and to take it out on the road

with us,” manager Brad Mills told the Astros’ official website.

Houston, though, hasn’t won two straight since June 26-27, and

the club is a major league-worst 10-41 on the road.

The Astros return to Milwaukee for the first time since ending a

six-game road losing streak to the Brewers – and an 11-game overall

skid in this matchup – with a 7-5 victory April 25.

Picking up another win at Miller Park could be a challenge as

Houston opens a six-game trip with Bud Norris (5-8, 5.05 ERA) going

for his first win since May 21.

The right-hander is 0-7 with a 7.43 ERA in nine starts since

that victory, but he pitched seven innings of one-run ball in

Wednesday’s 5-3 loss to the Reds.

Norris, though, has a 9.53 ERA while losing his last six road

starts. He’s faced the Brewers twice this season, including a 5

2-3-inning outing April 24 when he was tagged for seven runs and

nine hits in a 9-6 road loss.

Milwaukee will counter with Marco Estrada (0-4, 4.52), who

hasn’t won since Aug. 23.

This will be the right-hander’s first start against Houston

following six relief appearances. Estrada pitched three hitless

frames in a 5-3, 10-inning road win over the Astros on July 8.

Third baseman Aramis Ramirez could return to the Brewers’ lineup

Monday after a sore left wrist limited him to pinch-hitting duties

Sunday. Ramirez, who is batting .419 (18 for 43) with two homers

and eight RBIs since July 17, is 5 for 14 with two homers and two

doubles off Norris.

Ryan Braun and Corey Hart have also taken Norris deep twice,

with Hart’s two homers coming in 2012.