HOUSTON (AP) — The Milwaukee Brewers hoped to cruise Friday night after four of their previous five games were decided by one run, including two that lasted 10 innings.
And the struggling Houston Astros provided the perfect remedy to pick them up after their recent grind.
Norichika Aoki and Ryan Braun hit consecutive homers in the first inning and Rickie Weeks later connected as Milwaukee sent the Astros to their ninth loss in a row, 7-1 Friday night, their longest skid since September 2009.
Thursday’s game was Milwaukee’s only recent game that wasn’t decided by one run, but the Brewers couldn’t muster any offense in a 4-0 loss to the Marlins.
“Especially since we were shut out yesterday, I felt it was important to get on the board early and make it a little easier on our starting pitcher,” Aoki said through a translator.
Yovani Gallardo (7-6) beat Houston for the eighth straight start, allowing one run and four hits in six innings. But he didn’t feel as well as the results indicated.
“My command wasn’t where I wanted it to be today, but I was able to make pitches whenever I had to,” he said.
The Astros, who have baseball’s worst road record at 9-32, were eager to get home after a 0-7 trip. But it was more of the same for them at Minute Maid Park.
Houston manager Brad Mills called a team meeting before Friday’s game to try and get things on track. Left fielder J.D. Martinez said Mills implored them to get back to playing how they did early in the season when they went 22-23. They’ve gone 10-29 since then to drop to a MLB-worst 32-52.
“We just have to get back to having fun,” Martinez said. “And that’s hard when you are losing, you know?”
J.A. Happ (6-9) allowed nine hits — including a season-high three homers — and seven runs in 6 1-3 innings.
Aoki’s soaring homer to right field with one out in the first inning extended his hitting streak to 13 games and made it 1-0. The Brewers hit back-to-back home runs for the third time this season when Braun connected on a shot to left-center field for his NL-leading 24th homer.
Scott Moore got Houston within 2-1 with his two-out, first-pitch home run to the second deck in right field in the bottom half.
Martin Maldonado singled with one out in the second before Happ retired 13 of the next 14 batters. But Corey Hart doubled with two outs in the sixth and Weeks homered for a 4-1 lead.
“I wanted to be the guy that got us over it tonight,” Happ said. “It wasn’t good, but we were right there, and then I threw some pitches over the heart of the plate, and it cost us.”
Gallardo hit a snag in the second when Chris Johnson and Jason Castro hit consecutive one-out singles and Happ drew a two-out walk that loaded the bases. Gallardo wriggled out of that jam by striking out Jordan Schafer, and was well on the way to improving his record against the Astros to 11-2 in 13 career starts.
The Astros couldn’t get anything going offensively after the second and Gallardo allowed just one hit — a single with two outs in the fourth — over the next four innings. He walked Jed Lowrie and Johnson with two outs in the sixth, but Castro struck out to end that threat.
Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke agreed that Gallardo didn’t have his best stuff early, but was impressed with the way he worked out of those two jams.
“He came through with some big pitches,” Roenicke said. “He’s got so many different weapons that he can use. And when he gets in a tight spot when he’s locating with all those different pitches, it’s going to be pretty tough for them to hit.”
The Brewers tacked on three runs in the seventh. Carlos Gomez had an RBI triple with one out before a run-scoring single by Aoki chased Happ. He was replaced by Enerio Del Rosario, who allowed a two-out RBI double by Aramis Ramirez that pushed the lead to 7-1.
Kameron Loe pitched a perfect seventh for Milwaukee before former Astros pitcher Livan Hernandez finished it off with two scoreless frames.
NOTES: Braun was sore after being plunked in the back by reliever Rhiner Cruz in the ninth inning. … Roenicke said that he doesn’t expect RHP Shaun Marcum to be ready to return immediately after the All-Star break. Marcum has been on the DL retroactive to June 15 with tightness in his right elbow. “We’re just planning on him not being there for a little bit. We need to get Shaun healthy. Instead of trying to push him to come back, we really need to get him healthy.” … The Astros wore the rainbow sleeve jerseys they wore from 1987-93 as Houston continues its yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of the franchise. … Houston reliever Wilton Lopez, on the disabled list with a sprained right elbow, pitched one inning in a rehabilitation start for Triple-A Oklahoma City on Thursday. … The Brewers signed fifth-round pick RHP Damien Magnifico, eighth-round pick OF Edgardo Rivera and undrafted C Joe Andrade on Friday.