Brewers done in by big-inning blues
Ohka solid, allowing three runs over 6 2/3 innings
HOUSTON -- Brewers manager Ned Yost is just as confounded as anyone by the team's continuing road woes, saying it's an issue he mulls "every day."
Tuesday offered no reprieve.
"I sit and think about it all the time," Yost said in the afternoon before Tuesday night's game at Minute Maid Park. "What am I missing? What are we missing? What can I do to help them be better on the road?
"There's no logic behind it. There's no reason that a team can be this different, in terms of wins and losses, between home and road. It just doesn't compute. I don't understand and know why."
That was before his team's 10-3 loss to the Astros, Milwaukee's fifth straight loss on what is becoming a disastrous road trip. After watching Houston score seven runs before making an out of the bottom of the eighth inning, Yost was far less introspective.
Could anyone blame him?
This time the problem was the Brewers' bullpen, which entered with a 1.99 ERA since July 28. Before Brewers reliever Derrick Turnbow struck out Willy Taveras for the first Astros out of the eighth inning, seven batters had stepped to the plate and all had scored. The parade included Aubrey Huff, who put Houston ahead with an RBI single off losing pitcher Brian Shouse (1-2), and Jason Lane, who provided the exclamation point with a pinch-hit grand slam off Dan Kolb.
The Brewers dropped to 23-44 away from Miller Park this season. The team is 39-26 at home.
"There's, like, one point in every game that costs us," said Shouse, who has suffered two losses in his last three outings. "Tonight, it was me screwing up. ... But we're going to keep going out there and do what we can and see what happens. You look at our record and you look at everybody else, and we're still not out of it yet. You hold onto hope that you can win eight in a row."
At this point, that's what the Brewers need to get back to .500.
Gabe Gross, Corey Hart and Mike Rivera delivered seventh-inning RBIs for the Brewers off Astros starter Roy Oswalt to knot the score at 3. Enter Shouse, pitching for the third straight day and the fifth time in six days. He relieved Brewers starter Tomo Ohka with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the seventh and retired pinch-hitter Chris Burke, preserving the tie.
"Of all the matchups, that was the one that was glaring in their favor," Yost said of Burke, who entered the game batting .400 against left-handers. "Everything else played into our advantage. ... That's why they call them percentages, I guess. They're not always 100 percent."
Shouse ran into trouble in the eighth when he walked Craig Biggio leading off the inning, sparking Houston's big rally.
"Usually, I'm throwing strikes constantly," Shouse said. "That's when I know I'm starting to get a little tired, when I'm not throwing strikes and I'm hitting guys. I'm starting to fatigue a little bit. But you don't want to say no; you want to keep going out there."
Lance Berkman and Huff followed with consecutive singles, Huff's an RBI hit off the left-field scoreboard that gave the Astros a 4-3 lead. After Shouse hit Luke Scott with a pitch, the Brewers turned to right-hander Kolb, who surrendered an Adam Everett RBI single, walked No. 8 hitter Brad Ausmus to force in another run and served up Lane's grand slam, the first by a Houston pinch-hitter in four years.
"It's just not a reality that they're going to come in and get everybody out, every time," Yost said of his relief corps, which ranked second only to Detroit's in ERA over the last month.
Chad Qualls (5-3) pitched the top of the eighth inning for the win.
Ohka surrendered home runs to Scott and Biggio and twice he hit Taveras with a pitch, including one in the seventh inning that struck Taveras at the base of his neck. The Astros speedster finished 0-for-3, and his hitting streak ended at 30 games.
The Brewers fought back against Oswalt with three consecutive doubles leading off the seventh inning. The last of those came off the bat of Hart, who finished with two of the Brewers' five hits and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Rivera, who trotted toward first base on the previous pitch after being struck on the right elbow.
"The umpire missed it," Yost insisted.
Even that rally came with some bad news. Gross pulled up between first and second base and left the game with a Grade 1 strain of his left hamstring. Yost said he was told to expect Gross to miss "three or four days, or five days."
What a difference a turn through the starting rotation made. Last Thursday, Ohka batted left-handed for the first time in his career and delivered four RBIs in a win over the Rockies that capped a three-game Brewers sweep and left the team 4 1/2 games out in both the National League Central standings and the NL Wild Card. Five days later they find themselves eight games under .500, matching the season's low point.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.