orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

September 30, 2012

Lyles' arm and bat lift Astros, eliminate Brewers


Associated Press

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers never expected to have their playoff hopes dashed by the Houston Astros, the worst team in the major leagues.

The Brewers fell flat on Sunday in a 7-0 loss to Houston that officially eliminated Milwaukee from the playoff hunt.

"For us to come out and get shut out, that was probably the last thing that I thought would happen," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "I thought we'd come out and play a good series here against Houston and we didn't. It's hard right now. To play as well as we did to get back in it, this was a very disappointing series."

The Brewers, who reached the NL championship series last year, had surged since mid-August to get back into the postseason race. Milwaukee is 27-12 since being 12 games under .500 on Aug. 19.

But the last-place Astros won two of three at Miller Park to finish off Milwaukee.

"We were supposed to win this series against Houston," Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez said. "For some reason they played good against us."

The victory gave Houston its first series win in Milwaukee since it took two of three in July 2008.

"We're real excited. It's nice to win the series here," Astros manager Tony DeFrancesco said. "That was our goal; win two out of three from these guys and now we go to Chicago and hopefully we'll continue to finish strong."

The Brewers were stymied at home by 21-year-old Astros right-hander Jordan Lyles, who had just one road win this season coming into Sunday's game.

Lyles pitched his first major league shutout and hit his first home run. Lyles (5-12) threw a four-hitter in his first complete game in 40 big league starts.

"It was awesome to finish up this up-and-down season with a pretty good start," Lyles said. He entered the game with a 1-7 record and 6.95 ERA away from Minute Maid Park. He struck out three and walked one.

"He had a little more fire in his eye it looked like," DeFrancesco said. "He was aggressive in the zone, had a good breaking ball. That's a real good hitting team to shut down.

Lyles, Fernando Martinez, Jed Lowrie and Matt Dominguez hit solo home runs.

"We have 11 home runs in the last three games. Thats kind of nice to see these guys not quitting," DeFrancesco said.

Mike Fiers (9-10) struck out 10 in six innings, but also gave up Houston's four home runs. He had gone 1-3 with a 6.97 ERA over his previous five starts and ran into more trouble.

"It was probably the best I've felt all year," Fiers said. "I just wanted to pound the zone. I was going after guys. I was making them swing the bat. They ran into a couple and they missed a couple. "

Fiers pitched consistently well for an extended stretch after being recalled from Triple-A Nashville in May, but his performance fell off considerably in September as the Brewers battled for a playoff spot.

"I got off to a great start and I had a pretty bad September. I think most of it is mental," Fiers said. "I think I was trying to do too much. I think that's why my command was a little off the past few starts."

Roenicke said he has no regrets about leaving Fiers in the rotation.

"You have to have another answer," Roenicke said. "Who else was going to start in his place? He was a guy we know who had been a good starter for us. We were hoping he'd come out and throw like he was before."

Tyler Greene put the Astros ahead 1-0 in the third with an RBI double. Martinez homered the next inning.

Lyles, in his second season in the major leagues, helped himself with his homer in the fifth. Lowrie and Dominguez connected for back-to-back shots in the sixth.

Carlos Corporan added a two-run single in the seventh.

NOTES: The Brewers entered the game leading the National League in home runs (198) and stolen bases (153). Milwaukee is looking to become the first team since the 1996 Colorado Rockies to lead its league in both categories. ... With the outside game-time temperature hovering around 60 degrees, the Brewers opted to play the game with the retractable roof closed.