Prince Fielder breaks tie in eighth as Brewers sweep Astros
MILWAUKEE -- Prince Fielder rapped his knuckle once on his wood locker. The way the NL Central-leading Brewers have played at Miller Park this season, Fielder certainly is a little superstitious.
Fielder drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning and Milwaukee beat the Houston Astros 5-4 on Sunday to complete their second consecutive three-game sweep.
Milwaukee is 39-14 at home this season and has won six straight over the bottom of the NL Central but face a much stiffer challenge when the second-place Cardinals begin a series here on Monday night.
"At home, we're always on a good roll, it seems like," Fielder said before knocking on wood. "So, just keep playing the way we've been playing. No matter what happens, we can be happy with that. I think we're playing good baseball overall."
Jonathan Lucroy and Yuniesky Betancourt drove in two runs apiece before Fielder's key single as Milwaukee (60-49) moved 11 games over .500 for the first time in more than two years.
The Astros traded two-thirds of their starting outfield in the past 48 hours, sending away their strongest defensive player by dealing Michael Bourn to the Braves for outfielder Jordan Schafer and three minor-league pitchers hours before the game's start. On Friday night, they traded Hunter Pence to Philadelphia.
"Everybody understands what's going on. It's just kind of the way it is," said Jason Michaels, who started in Pence's spot in right field. "It's tough to lose a teammate. Again, that's just part of the business."
Milwaukee has beaten up on the bottom of the NL Central over the past six games after also sweeping the Cubs, but the Brewers didn't make it easy on themselves against the Astros.
Brewers reliever Francisco Rodriguez (4-2) failed to protect the lead in the eighth after he threw a wild pitch with runners on second and third with two outs that allowed Jason Bourgeois to score and tie the game at 4, costing starter Chris Narveson the chance at the victory.
But the Brewers bounced right back off Fernando Rodriguez (2-1) when Braun doubled off the wall and Fielder punched a single just past the infield into center after the Astros decided not to walk him despite falling behind in the count 3-0. Braun easily beat Bourgeois' throw to the plate.
"I was really trying to make sure I at the least I got Braunie over," Fielder said. "I didn't think they were going to set it up on a tee, but I was obviously ready to hit something."
John Axford converted his franchise-record 28th consecutive save and 31st of 33 chances this season with a perfect ninth.
Narveson left with two on and two outs in the seventh, making this the 16th straight game that a Brewers starter has given up three runs or fewer with the rotation posting a 2.10 ERA in the span.
"You kind of look at it as coming in and winning every day. You think about the series at the end, but you try to play it day by day," Narveson said.
Milwaukee took a 2-0 lead in the second on a double by Betancourt and a suicide squeeze by Lucroy.
Bourgeois, playing in Bourn's spot, hit his first home run in almost two years with a three-run shot in the fourth, but Milwaukee tied it in the bottom of the inning on Lucroy's double. Milwaukee went ahead 4-3 in the sixth on Betancourt's fielder's choice after Fielder broke up a double-play attempt by sliding hard into second base.
The Brewers decided to stay away from major moves at the non-waiver trading deadline after kicking off the July action by dealing for Rodriguez just after the All-Star Game.
Milwaukee swept St. Louis at home in a three-game series in early June, outscoring them 17-6 in the process.
"We played a nice series against them last time. We need to continue to have a nice series again and just keep playing this type of ball. If we play like this, we're going to be fine," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said.
Houston, meanwhile, remained busy retooling its team for the second straight year.
Bourn, a two-time Gold Glove winner, never came to Miller Park after he was traded four hours before the Astros finished this season-long 10-game trip with a thud at 2-8.
Houston (35-73) is well on its way to its first 100-loss season in franchise history. After dealing away Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman last year, they've sent Bourn, Pence and second baseman Jeff Keppinger packing in the past 13 days to acquire Schafer, eight minor leaguers and a player to be named.
"Hopefully some of them can be here this year or we see them in spring training," Astros first baseman Brett Wallace said. "You're not going to trade Mike, you're not going to trade Hunter unless you believe in the people you're getting back for the long haul."
Betancourt has hit safely in 12 of his past 13 games. ... Brewers 3B Craig Counsell set the franchise mark for at-bats without a hit at 43 with a groundout in the fourth. He finished without a hit and his skid is at 44 at-bats. ... Milwaukee is 24-14 in one-run games.
MIL Wins 3-0
- Home Plate Umpire - Eric Cooper
- First Base Umpire - Mark Carlson
- Second Base Umpire - Tim Timmons
- Third Base Umpire - Jeff Kellogg