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Braun belts three hits and drives in a pair

MILWAUKEE -- Ryan Braun homered and drove in two runs to drive a Brewers offense that produced the sort of multi-inning, up-and-down-the-lineup production Monday that manager Ron Roenicke has been longing for.

Can you guess which starting pitcher benefited?

Good things always seem to happen for the Brewers when Zack Greinke takes the mound Miller Park, even on nights like this, when he's not at his best. Greinke got through six innings, and the Brewers scored just enough to hold off the feisty Astros, 6-5, in the opener of a three-game series.

"We found a way to win, which is good," Greinke said.

For Greinke, they always do. With the narrow win, Greinke improved to 13-0 in regular-season starts at Miller Park, and the Brewers improved to 18-0 when he takes the mound in front of the home fans. It's the longest such streak since the Twins won 24 straight home games behind Johan Santana from 2005-07.

This one nearly slipped away. The Astros scored three runs off reliever Jose Veras in the seventh inning, cutting a 6-2 Brewers lead to 6-5. Veras stranded a pair of runners, and Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford (third save) closed out Milwaukee's 10th consecutive win over Houston.

"[Veras] let it get away from him a little bit, but he worked his way out of it and we had Frankie and Ax come in there and shut the door," catcher Jonathan Lucroy said.

Greinke earned the first win for a Brewers starting pitcher since April 11 after a 10-game drought. Credit the hitters for giving him a cushion.

The Brewers touched Astros starter Lucas Harrell (1-1) for three runs in the first inning, the first time Milwaukee had a hit over the first three innings in four games, and the first time the Brewers scored in the first inning in 13 games.

LUCKY NO. 13
Brewers right-hander Zack Greinke is only the sixth pitcher since 1900 to win his first 13 home decisions with a team.
Pitcher Team Streak Year
Johnny Allen NYY 16-0 1932-33
LaMarr Hoyt CWS 16-0 1980-82
Kenny Rogers OAK 15-0 1998-99
Billy Pierce SF 13-0 1962-63
David Palmer MON 13-0 1979-82
Zack Greinke MIL 13-0 2011-current

That three-run outburst alone matched or beat the Brewers' output in four of their last five games, but this time they weren't finished.

Milwaukee scored in the first, fourth, fifth and sixth innings, getting RBIs from four different players, including Braun, who put the Brewers on the board with a first-inning single and added insurance with a line-drive solo home run in the fifth. It was Braun's third homer this season. He added a double in the seventh to complete a three-hit night.

Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart and Mat Gamel drove in a run apiece. For the slumping Ramirez, it was only his second RBI in the last 11 games.

"We never had the big inning, the 'kill' inning, the knockout punch," said Lucroy, who contributed two hits and a walk. "We scored a little here and there, and it gave us enough to cover. We have to be better at putting people away when we get the chance and not letting them hang around."

The Brewers might have been on their way to a "kill" in the sixth inning, when a rally was shut down by Houston's tough defense. With the bases loaded, Rickie Weeks popped out in foul ground to first baseman Carlos Lee. Gamel tagged from third base and lowered a shoulder into Astros catcher Jason Castro, who held onto the baseball after a violent collision for an inning-ending double play.

"I've been hit before, but that's probably the hardest I've ever been hit," Castro said. "It's part of baseball, it's part of being a catcher. It's a hard-nosed play. He's trying to score the run, I'm trying to prevent the run. It is what it is."

That fizzled rally aside, it was a positive night for a Brewers lineup that had been struggling.

"I liked what we did offensively today," Roenicke said. "When we score in four different innings, that's really good. To have that big inning in the first, I think it's really nice to give our starting pitchers a little slack there, that when they get a runner on third base, they don't feel like they have to strike somebody out. You can give up a run there and still be fine, which Zack did."

Greinke (2-1) pitched six workmanlike frames and held Houston to two runs. He scattered eight hits and two walks while working only one 1-2-3 inning -- the fourth. Greinke set a season high with nine strikeouts.

Greinke stranded at least one runner in scoring position in three different innings, including the fifth, when Greinke walked Brian Bogusevic to force in a run. That cut the Brewers' lead to 4-2, but Greinke struck out Chris Johnson to leave the bases loaded.

"I feel like I've really struggled with guys on base, so it was nice to get out of some jams," Greinke said. "I feel like their team has been playing pretty solid lately. I haven't completely watched it, but they're taking some good at-bats. It definitely wasn't easy out there today."

The Astros will try to snap the Brewers' long winning streak on Saturday. A Brewers win Tuesday would be their 11th in a row over the Astros, the fourth-longest streak against one opponent in Milwaukee's franchise history.

"Greinke is one of the best starters in the league, and to get him out, to get his pitch count up high early and to get into the bullpen, that was big," said Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie, who homered in the first inning. "I think that sets up well to hopefully get in that bullpen early [Tuesday] and take advantage of it."

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