Five days after posting one of his better performances of the season, Mike Hampton lasted just two innings before exiting with a right knee sprain as Milwaukee blew out the Astros 12-5 at Minute Maid Park.
Hampton labored through 13 batters and 48 pitches and was in hot water early and often. Allowing the first two batters to reach in each of the first and second innings, Hampton had a chance to escape both frames unscathed but surrendered a two-out single to Casey McGehee in the first and a two-out single to Ryan Braun in the second to spot the Brewers a 3-0 lead.
Meanwhile, the Astros touched Milwaukee starter Manny Parra with a two-out single and walk in the first but failed to convert on the scoring opportunity. Houston pushed across a nicely constructed run in the second, with Ivan Rodriguez leading off with a double, Jason Michaels advancing him with a grounder to first and Chris Coste driving Pudge home with a grounder to second.
Milwaukee broke open the game in the third, when Yorman Bazardo, just called up from Round Rock, replaced Hampton. The Brewers went double, walk, walk, double before Bazardo threw the ball away on a sacrifice bunt attempt and issued another walk, having given up four runs with no outs recorded. Bazardo then struck out two batters but allowed another RBI single before retiring the side with the Astros in an 8-1 hole.
After Bazardo’s implosion in the third, Wesley Wright, Tim Byrdak and Alberto Arias posted six innings of so-so relief, scattering six hits, three walks and four runs, including a two-RBI, two-out blast by Prince Fielder off Byrdak in the seventh.
The Astros chipped away with a run in the fifth, two runs in the sixth and a run in the seventh on Carlos Lee’s 300th career home run, but they also allowed Milwaukee to dodge bullets by stranding nine runners. Particularly painful was Lee grounding into a double play with the bases loaded to end the fifth, Jeff Keppinger striking out with runners on first and second to end the sixth and Darin Erstad popping out to shortstop with runners on first and second in the eighth. The Astros were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
The loss dropped the Astros to one game behind the Brewers for fourth place in the Central Division. Lee’s milestone marks the first time a club has had three players reach 300 career home runs in the same season. Rodriguez and Lance Berkman achieved the mark on May 17 and June 13, respectively.