Brewers Begin Homestand Against Astros

Injury to Kaz Matsui means Mark Loretta will see much more playing time for Houston during the next two weeks. Brewers also won't see slugger Carlos Lee.

Inside pitch

It was tempting for manager Ned Yost to juggle his rotation in the coming weeks to keep his top two starters, left-hander CC Sabathia and right-hander Ben Sheets, on an every-fifth-day schedule.

With three scheduled off days over an eight-day period, beginning Thursday, Yost could have realigned his rotation to get an extra start out of Sabathia and Sheets before season's end.

But Yost decided the consequences of such a move negated any benefits.

"I'm probably just going to ride everybody straight through," Yost said. "That way, it gives them extra days."

Had he reconfigured the rotation to keep Sabathia and Sheets on their normal days, Yost said it would have created too much havoc with the other three spots. Plus, Sheets would not have been scheduled to pitch in either of the two remaining series against the first-place Chicago Cubs.

"They were all in agreement that they'd rather have the off days," said Yost, who met with Sabathia, Sheets and veteran right-hander Jeff Suppan to discuss the situation.

"It keeps them stronger and more refreshed, but CC and Ben will have one less start. We set up better doing it this way."

By keeping the rotation in order, Sheets and left-hander Manny Parra will start in an important two-game series in St. Louis next week.

Dodgers 7, Brewers 5

Another late-inning miracle didn't pan out for the Brewers on Sunday. They scored four times in the top of the ninth, capped by a two-run homer by Ryan Braun, to tie the score, 5-5. But Andre Ethier's two-run homer in the bottom of the inning, his second homer of the game, off reliever Carlos Villanueva gave the Dodgers a walk-off victory and the series, two games to one.

The night before, the Brewers rallied from a late 3-1 deficit to win, 4-3, in 10 innings but another come-from-behind victory wasn't in the cards. The Brewers went 3-3 on their West Coast trip to San Diego and Los Angeles but failed in their bid to win a sixth consecutive series on the road.

Inside edge

The Brewers aren't getting much out of the leadoff spot in the lineup, whether it's right-handed hitting Rickie Weeks or switch-hitting Ray Durham starting at second base. Weeks was batting .229 through play Sunday and Durham was batting .171 over 16 games since coming in a trade from San Francisco. It sure would make it easier for the Brewers to score runs if they had their leadoff hitters get on base more often. Weeks had a .331 on-base percentage and Durham a .261 OBP since joining the Brewers. Weeks left the game Sunday with a sprained left thumb.

Notes

--Braun, who sat out six consecutive games with an intercostal strain near his lower ribcage, was used as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning Saturday night in Los Angeles and cracked an opposite-field double to right. Braun was back in the starting lineup Sunday against the Dodgers for the first time since suffering the injury and hit a two-out, two-strike, two-run homer in the ninth to tie the game.

--Third baseman Bill Hall, who has started primarily against left-handed pitchers, saw little action over the past week as Craig Counsell made most of the starts at third. But Hall was in the lineup Sunday against Los Angeles lefty Clayton Kershaw and figures to see more action the rest of the week as the Brewers face a string of lefties.

--Counsell recorded his 1,000th career hit Saturday night with a second-inning single in Los Angeles. Counsell recorded 611 hits with Arizona, 218 with the Brewers, 143 with Florida and 28 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

--Righty Salomon Torres was treated for groin tightness after pitching the ninth inning Saturday night in Los Angeles. He allowed an unearned run in a 19-pitch outing but did not return to the mound after the Brewers went on top in the 10th. Righty David Riske closed out that victory instead.

--Weeks exited the game Sunday in Los Angeles with what was described as a sprained left thumb. Weeks struck out in the fifth inning against Kershaw and was seen holding the thumb as he walked back to the dugout. Weeks had surgery after the 2005 season to repair a torn ligament in that thumb.

By the numbers

7--Starts of at least seven innings for righty Dave Bush over his last 10 outings through Aug. 17.

Quote of the day

"You've got two real good contending teams and nobody is going to give up. That's how these games play out."—Yost, after the Brewers pulled out a 4-3, 10-inning road victory over the Dodgers on Saturday night.

Houston Astros

Inside pitch

The Astros placed second baseman Kaz Matsui on the disabled Saturday for the third time this season. This time, it's Matsui's ailing lower back that put him on the shelf.

"Kaz has had problems with his back, and it's not getting any better," manager Cecil Cooper said. "In a couple of weeks he'll be ready to come back and help us."

Matsui, who had a cortisone shot Thursday, is eligible to come off the disabled list Aug. 28.

"It's not going to heal right away," Matsui said through his interpreter.

Matsui, 32, who is hitting .285 with five home runs, 28 RBIs and 19 stolen bases, has been limited to 85 games this season because of two previous stints on the DL. He began the year on the disabled list recovering from an anal fissure, then went back on the DL from June 23 to July 9 with a strained right hamstring.

Cooper said he will "be more cautious" with his second baseman when he returns.

"I think I might have pushed him," Cooper said.

Matsui's spot on the 25-man roster was taken by J.R. House, whose contract was purchased from Class AAA Round Rock. Mark Loretta figures to get significant playing time in the next couple of weeks with Matsui out.

"Loretta will play against most left-handers, but there might be some (Geoff) Blum days over there," Cooper said. "We've got to try to mix and match."

Loretta, who entered Sunday with only 208 at-bats, hasn't had fewer than 283 at-bats in a season since his second year in the majors in 1997. He got 460 last year and wound up starting 58 games at shortstop after Adam Everett broke his leg.

Astros 3, Diamondbacks 0

Roy Oswalt and Jose Valverde combined to pitch a two-hit shutout Sunday to snap a two-game losing streak. Oswalt held Arizona to one hit and struck out 10 batters in eight innings, and Ty Wigginton hit a three-run homer of Randy Johnson in the first inning for the only runs of the game.

Inside edge

The Astros will have plenty of interesting decisions to make in the off-season, including one concerning the future of pitcher Brandon Backe. Backe has allowed 11 earned runs in two of the past three starts and has struggled to win games this year. Nearly two years removed from Tommy John surgery, Backe remains a question mark.

Notes

--Wigginton extended his career-high hitting streak to 14 games with three hits, including one home run, on Sunday. He's hitting .510 with five doubles, one triple, six home runs and 16 RBIs during the streak.

--Center fielder Darin Erstad extended his hitting streak to a season-long seven games Sunday. He's hitting .370 with two doubles and six RBIs during the streak, and he's batting .286 with eight runs scored and four RBIs in 12 games in the leadoff spot.

--Shortstop Miguel Tejada went 2-for-4 on Sunday for his 34th multi-hit game of the season. Since July 26, Tejada is hitting .333 and has multiple hits in nine of 21 games.

--Catcher Brad Ausmus snapped a 0-for-11 slump with a third-inning single Sunday. It was the first hit of the month for Ausmus.

--Valverde recorded his 31st save of the season Sunday. It was also the 129th of his career, tying him with Antonio Alfonseca for fourth place on the all-time saves list by Dominican-born players.

--Left fielder Carlos Lee (pinky finger) went on the 15-day disabled list Aug. 10. He underwent surgery Aug. 11 and is expected to be out for six to eight weeks.

By the numbers

943--Career RBIs for Lance Berkman through Aug. 17, surpassing Jose Cruz and putting him alone in third place on the club's all-time RBI list. Berkman trails only Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell.

Quote of the day

"It's not just defense. It's offense, base running. Everything you see now from second basemen, it started with Craig. He was truly one of the greatest players who ever played this game. I can't tell you how privileged I am to have had the chance to play with him for the last 15 years. You're an amazing player, an amazing father, an amazing husband. Anyone with a child sitting next to them--you want your child to grow up and be Craig Biggio."--Former Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell, on his longtime teammate who had his No. 7 retired by the team Sunday.


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