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Astros rally late to avoid sweep

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McClatchy-Tribune
August 17, 2009
— It’s not how they wanted to leave home, but it could have been worse.

In the three days after the dismissal of pitching coach Bill Castro, the demotion of shortstop J.J. Hardy and the designation and eventual trade or release of third baseman Bill Hall, the Brewers were unbeaten until a late hiccup kept them from winning four in a row and sweeping Houston.


The Astros got a game-winning home run from Hunter Pence in the eighth inning for an 8-5 victory Sunday afternoon at muggy Miller Park.


The Brewers are 3-2 since those transactions, and while a sweep would have been ideal before trying to put together a winning seven-game road trip to Pittsburgh and Washington, that record is understandable.


Considering the difficult week, the Brewers finished the homestand at 3-3, and they gained minimal ground on the first-place St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central.


“This was a good home-stand,” catcher Jason Kendall said. “We battled back and got the life back in this club that we needed.


“Bottom line is you have to go out and win. You have to be productive. You feel for the guys (who are gone), but you still have to go out and win ball games.”


The statistic sheets say that should be a doable task with the Pirates and Nationals, teams that have combined to win less than 90 games so far. The Brewers are 6-2 against Pittsburgh and 2-2 against Washington, but the Nationals have won 11 of their last 14.


“We would have felt a lot better closing it off,” manager Ken Macha said. “But over the last five games, we’ve played extremely hard and energetic, and hopefully, we’ll carry that on this road trip.”


The Brewers were four outs from completing the sweep thanks to a two-run homer by Ryan Braun (his 26th of the season) in the first inning and a two-run homer by Prince Fielder (his 30th) in the sixth that tied the game after the lead had been lost in the top half.


Shortstop Alcides Escobar later beat out what looked like a perfect double-play ball. That hustle allowed Mike Cameron to score to give Milwaukee a 5-4 lead going into the seventh.


Right-hander David Weathers started the eight with a one-run lead but walked Lance Berkman to start it.


Then, after getting the next two batters, he hung a slider to Pence, who hit it over the right-field wall.


“It was higher than I wanted,” Weathers said. “You don’t make the pitch, and you pay the price. They brought me over here to do a job, and I didn’t do it.”


Brewers starter Braden Looper allowed a run-scoring triple to Michael Bourn in the third and a three-run home run to Geoff Blum in the sixth on a fastball that clipped too much plate.


It was Looper’s 30th homer allowed, the most of any pitcher in the majors.


“I feel like I made two bad mistakes, and both of them were hits,” Looper said. “The one to Blum, I can’t make that (mistake). . . . It really stinks because I felt like I threw the ball really well, and it cost me the game.”


Still, the Brewers weren’t glum after the loss. Players exhibited some swagger as they packed for the road, giving the impression that they truly think they can get back to winning.


“We were scuffling; we weren’t playing to win,” Kendall said. “We got that ’we expect to win’ feeling back. That’s the way we play. For a little bit, it wasn’t there.”


We had some injuries, guys trying to do more than they’re capable of doing.


“We finally got that energy back that we expect to win everyday.”



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