Brewers-Astros Preview

An impressive home stretch within the NL Central has helped the

Milwaukee Brewers create some breathing room atop the division.

Carrying their success at Miller Park over to the road, however,

has been a season-long struggle.

The major leagues’ best home team also owns the worst road

record among contenders, a problem it will try to start solving

Friday night when it visits the same woebegone Houston Astros club

it swept last weekend.

The Brewers (62-50) opened their nine-game homestand July 26 a

half-game behind St. Louis and Pittsburgh in the Central, but they

are heading back to the road in far better shape.

Milwaukee went 8-1 while outscoring opponents 47-25, the lone

defeat coming by an 8-7 score in 11 innings to the Cardinals on

Tuesday. The Brewers bounced back Wednesday, riding Casey McGehee’s

three-homer game to a 10-5 win that’s given them a healthy cushion

over St. Louis and an even bigger edge over the plummeting

Pirates.

“I talk about how long the season is and still we’ve got such a

long ways to go,” manager Ron Roenicke told the team’s official

website. “But these series, they’re great. They’re great for a

confidence boost individually and as a team.”

Milwaukee will see the Cardinals again for three games at Busch

Stadium starting Tuesday, but first up is a trip to Houston

(37-74).

The Brewers have struggled regardless of what opposing venue

they visit. Wednesday’s victory lifted Milwaukee to a major

league-best 41-15 at home, but only five teams have a worse road

record than the Brewers’ 21-35 mark.

Milwaukee is 6-12 in road games within the Central, but it will

certainly have a chance to end those struggles. Twenty-two of the

Brewers’ next 44 games are away from home against division

foes.

“I don’t know what the answer is,” Roenicke said of Milwaukee’s

road issues. “I’ve said before, it’s a comfort when you come to the

ballpark, knowing it’s a good-hitting park, knowing that you’re

probably going to get one or two hits a game. It does something to

you mentally.”

Minute Maid Park has provided plenty of issues for the Brewers

lately. They’ve lost four consecutive series there and totaled one

run in their two losses during a three-game set April 29-May 1.

Yovani Gallardo (12-7, 3.69 ERA) wasn’t on the mound in that

series, but he was against the Astros on Saturday. The right-hander

held Houston to one unearned run over seven innings in a 6-2 win,

his sixth straight in the series that gave him a 3.50 ERA in that

stretch.

J.A. Happ (4-13, 6.01) was the victim of poor defense when he

matched up with Gallardo on Saturday. Down 2-0 in the fifth inning,

an error by shortstop Angel Sanchez led to three unearned runs and

resulted in Happ’s departure.

Though only the first two runs were earned, the left-hander gave

up at least five runs for the seventh straight start. No Astro has

ever given up that many in eight consecutive starts, and only three

pitchers since 1946 can claim that infamous distinction.

“He deserves a lot better,” manager Brad Mills told the Astros’

official website. “Their guy threw the ball pretty well, but it was

sure nice to see J.A. continue to make progress in the right

direction.”

Houston, a major league-worst 19-37 at home, actually has some

momentum after winning its last two home series. The Astros rallied

for a 5-4 victory over Cincinnati on Wednesday behind three hits

and four RBIs from J.D. Martinez.

The rookie doubled off Marco Estrada on Saturday in his first

major league at-bat.