Astros stagger Parra, Brewers
Pitcher Brandon Backe and Michael Bourn hit consecutive home runs in a five-run fifth inning and the Astros beat the Milwaukee Brewers 6-2 Saturday night.
It was the first time since 2001 the Astros have had two straight nights with consecutive home runs after hitting three straight homers in the series opener Friday.
“I’m feeling much better about our offense,” Astros manager Cecil Cooper said. “Everybody has been pitching in. We’re getting contributions throughout the lineup.”
Backe (2-3) pitched 5 2-3 solid innings for his first win since April 12. He allowed five hits and two runs with three strikeouts and five walks.
The game was tied at 1 before Backe hit the third home run of his career to the third row of the left field Crawford Boxes off Brewers starter Manny Parra. Bourn followed with a homer to right field that made it 3-1.
Backe and Bourne—not exactly the Astros’ vaunted “Killer B’s”—came in with five career home runs combined in 316 at-bats.
“It woke them up a little bit I guess,” Backe said. “I think they were probably going to do it even if I didn’t get that home run, but it helps out a little bit when your pitcher hits a home run.”
Kaz Matsui followed the pair of homers with a single. He stole second base before scoring on a double by Miguel Tejada. Left fielder Ryan Braun dove to catch Tejada’s fly ball, but it bounced off his glove and dribbled away.
Tejada is batting .355 and has an eight-game hitting streak.
Lance Berkman singled before Tejada scored on a wild pitch. Parra walked Carlos Lee before he was replaced by Dave Bush, who was brought up from Triple-A Nashville Friday.
Hunter Pence’s RBI single ended the scoring for the inning and Bush retired the next three batters to take it to the sixth.
Backe’s big game got off to an inauspicious start when Rickie Weeks hit a leadoff homer. Mike Cameron singled, but the Astros turned a double play before Prince Fielder grounded out to end the inning.
He pitched four straight scoreless innings before an RBI single by Corey Hart with one out in the sixth. Backe walked the first two batters in that inning to set up the score.
He was replaced by Oscar Villarreal with two outs after walking his third batter of the inning.
“I’m tired of all these walks that I’m giving up and I’m getting myself in trouble and ultimately not going as far as I want to go,” Backe said.
Tony Gwynn grounded out to end that inning and Villarreal pitched a scoreless seventh. Rule 5 draftee Wesley Wright pitched a perfect eighth and Jose Valverde did the same in the ninth.
Houston’s bullpen has thrown 8 1-3 scoreless innings, since the seventh inning of an 8-7 loss at Arizona.
The 25-year-old Parra (1-2) allowed a career-high six runs and tied his career mark with nine hits. He walked four and struck out three in four innings.
“He was consistently down with his other stuff, but for some reason, not his fastball,” Brewers manager Ned Yost said. “That’s the number one prerequisite for a young pitcher, you’ve got to control your fastball. If you can’t, you won’t stay around very long.”
Berkman grounded into a force out that scored Matsui and tied it at 1 in the third inning.