WEAU | Eau Claire, Wisconsin | Sports

Brewers Blow Big Lead To Astros

Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio can't quite understand why manager Ned Yost is being blamed for the team's recent slide in the standings.

The grumbling is likely to get louder after the Milwaukee's bullpen gave up a three-run lead in the eighth inning on Monday, allowing the Houston Astros to steal a 9-7 victory and end the Brewers' three-game winning streak.

"There seems to be more day-to-day, inning-to-inning commentary on Ned's managing than any team in the major leagues," said Attanasio, who gave Yost a firm vote of confidence during a mid-game session with reporters. "I mean, I get all the New York and Los Angeles papers, they don't do daily commentary on how the manager's managing. ... We're not the only team that's had rough going here."

The Brewers have lost a major league-worst 15 games in which they led by at least three runs.

"We still were in a nice position to win the ballgame and didn't," Yost said. "That's what makes it tough."

Astros rookie Hunter Pence hit a key two-run triple during the rally. But the bullpen wasn't solely responsible for the loss, as a passed ball by catcher Johnny Estrada allowed Pence to score and gave the Astros to take the lead.

"It's hard. It [stinks]," Estrada said. "We can't [give] any more games away, not in September."

But at least it was a happy homecoming for Astros interim manager Cecil Cooper, who took over for fired manager Phil Garner last week. Cooper was a five-time All-Star in 11 seasons with the Brewers.

Cooper said he was "out of steam" after the three-hour, 50-minute game -- but also said it was the most fun he has had so far as a major league manager.

"Those are the kind that build you up, get you excited to come out tomorrow and play," Cooper said.

Houston's Mark Loretta said Cooper's arrival has given the team energy. The Astros are 4-3 since Cooper took over.

"I think he's set a very good tone," Loretta said. "I think we've played very hard since he took over. Not that we weren't playing hard under 'Gar,' but sometimes a change is kind of a wake-up call to the players."

It was the Brewers' bullpen that needed a wake-up call in the eighth. With Milwaukee leading 7-4, Yost brought in setup man Derrick Turnbow. But Turnbow, whose struggles last season cost him his role as Milwaukee's closer, loaded the bases with one out and was removed for left-hander Brian Shouse, who allowed a sacrifice fly to pinch-hitter Craig Biggio to cut the Brewers' lead to two.

Yost then brought in righty Greg Aquino (0-1) to face Pence, a right-handed hitter, and Aquino threw a wild pitch to give the Astros runners on second and third with two outs.

Pence then drove a ball past center fielder Bill Hall for a game-tying triple.

Yost said he was simply playing the logical matchups; Pence hits 61 points higher against lefties.

"We didn't make the pitch," Yost said. "We didn't make the pitches the whole inning."

Dave Borkowski (4-3) got the final two outs in the seventh and took the victory. Chad Qualls retired two batters for his fourth save.

The Brewers put runners on second and third with one out off Astros reliever Brad Lidge in the eighth, but J.J. Hardy popped out to the catcher and pinch-hitter Vinny Rottino hit a hard grounder to Loretta, who threw Rottino out to end the inning.

Loretta's play was the talk of the Astros' clubhouse after the game.

"The situation in the game really makes that play gratifying," Loretta said.

Lance Berkman then homered off Milwaukee reliever Chris Spurling in the ninth, giving Houston a 9-7 lead.

Milwaukee had rallied from a 3-0 deficit earlier in the game, scoring two runs in the fourth and taking the lead in the sixth.

The Brewers' big sixth inning chased Roy Oswalt, who gave up five runs and 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings. Oswalt was 6-0 in his previous seven starts, with a 1.00 ERA during that stretch.

Brewers ace Ben Sheets struggled with his control in his second outing since coming off the disabled list last week. He walked a career-high six batters -- including one intentional walk -- and threw 118 pitches in six innings. Sheets gave up only three runs and five hits.


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