The Milwaukee brewers go on break for a few days, and they left the first half of the season on a high note after taking down the Houston Astros in extra innings at Minute Maid Park Sunday afternoon.
It was a strange game from a pitching perspective, as Zack Greinke bounced back to the mound after being ejected the night before for spiking a ball after a bang-bang play at first. He only went three innings, but the bullpen shined and shutout the ‘Stros through seven.
Most of the action was thanks to Rickie Weeks, who knocked three hits and drove in two runs as he continued his improving numbers into July.
Weeks did not strike out in any of his at-bats Sunday afternoon – a welcome change from his first-half performances – and even knocked his eight home run of the year to give the Brewers their first run on the day. It would keep Milwaukee in the game until the bats would open up later in the day.
Greinke added some offense of his own with a hard double into left field in the top of the second after the Weeks home run, but it amounted to nothing on a day that Greinke did his best, but otherwise was happy to walk away with a no-decision. Greinke pitched only three innings, and gave up three runs in the first inning including a bases-loaded walk. He managed to pull the game back in after that, striking out the side in his last inning of work. His ERA was up to 3.32 after his early exit.
After Greinke left, Marco Estrada and a host of Milwaukee relievers held the Astros to only two hits. Estrada pitched three innings, walked one and struck out three. Veras, K-Rod, and Parra pitched the seventh, eighth and ninth respectively, each posting a zero and striking out a batter before handing it over to Axford.
For once, in what seemed like a long stretch, the Brewers bullpen set the table for Milwaukee’s offense to close out the game. Fernando Rodriguez came out in the top of the tenth inning to try and extend a game and a series that saw both teams running out of options on the bench and in the bullpen. Nyjer Morgan led off the extra inning with a walk, who then promptly stole second on a first pitch to Ryan Braun. A visit to the mound cemented the fact that Ryan Braun should occupy the newly opened base, and Aramis Ramirez came up to the plate in a moment that looked to be quickly slipping out of the Astros’ hands.
Rodriguez continued to struggle as he put a ball in the dirt which allowed both runners to advance to second and third. the at-bat ended in a walk for Ramirez, and the bases were loaded as Corey Hart with Rickie Weeks following.
In another move to separate themselves from a floundering first half of the season, both players drove singles that brought a Brewers
runner in, and moved the score to a 5-3 Brewers advantage. Rodriguez would bear down and strike out Maldonado, Ransom, and Carlos Gomez to end the inning, but the game was out of reach at that point. With a two-run lead and a save situation was on the line, the ball was handed over to John Axford.
Axford came into the game, and gave up two quick singles to Houston. With men on first and second, Ax got his first out on a sacrifice bunt. Coming up for Houston was All-Star selection Jose Altuve, followed by Scott Moore with only one out and two men in scoring position. John Axford showed the control and velocity that has made him so dominant over the last season – striking out both on curveballs. Axford would notch his 15th save on the season, and the Brewers would head into the second half 40-45 on the season. Their record in extra-inning games improved to 6-7.
It may seem like a small step, but there’s nothing wrong with a long break after a series win and a series of offensive players putting up improving performances.