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MIL@HOU: Gallardo whiffs six over seven strong frames

HOUSTON -- Was this the Brewers' worst game of the year?

"Easily," said catcher Jonathan Lucroy, and manager Ron Roenicke agreed.

"For me," Roenicke said, "that's as bad as it gets."

Lucroy was quick to count himself among the culprits after a 10-inning, 7-4 loss to the Astros on Thursday in which the Brewers' offensive and defensive deficiencies cost them their first winning road trip of the season.

Carlos Pena's three-run home run off Brewers reliever Michael Gonzalez was the only hit with a man in scoring position for either team (they were 0-for-19 before that swing, including 0-for-12 by the Brewers), but the trouble was not limited to the bats. Each club made enough defensive miscues to allow three unearned runs.

For the Brewers, there was a costly passed ball by Lucroy that led to two unearned runs, an error on second baseman Scooter Gennett that led to another, plus a series of more subtle mistakes. First baseman Juan Francisco's decision to fire a late throw home in Houston's two-run fifth inning rather than take an out first. The middle infielders' misalignment on a run-scoring double in the sixth, contributing to center fielder Carlos Gomez airing a throw over the cutoff man. And a strikeout-wild pitch in the bottom of the 10th that sparked the Astros' winning rally.

When Pena's no-doubt homer landed in the right-field seats, the Brewers slumped back to the clubhouse to prepare for another somber flight home. By the time they landed, they would have logged more than 11,000 air miles this season without a winning road trip.

Thursday's loss dropped the Brewers to 4-5 on a trek to Miami, Cincinnati and Houston. With the season's halfway point approaching fast, Milwaukee owns only one more victory (29-42) than rebuilding Houston (28-46).

"Bad game for us in all areas," Roenicke said. "Defensively, we gave them a couple of runs early. We certainly didn't do the job offensively when we had guys on third base. Our pitching was OK but, you know, you go long enough, and somebody is going to give up something.

"But that's a bad game."

For seven and a half innings, it appeared the Brewers would win despite their mistakes. Much of the credit went to their starting pitcher, Yovani Gallardo, who limited the damage to five hits and three unearned runs over seven innings, while lowering his lifetime ERA against the Astros to 2.69 in 17 starts.

Gallardo worked 21 innings on the just-completed road trip without allowing an earned run, and by protecting a 4-3 lead into the eighth, he was poised to be the first Brewers starting pitcher to win three games on a single road trip since Ron Robinson in 1990.

"He had everything working," Roenicke said.

Gallardo's bid for that bit of Brewers history was spoiled in the eighth inning, when Corporan connected against reliever Jim Henderson for a home run that struck the right-field foul pole, tying the game at 4. Roenicke had picked Henderson for the eighth even though he is the team's closer because the other option, Francisco Rodriguez, had surrendered a homer to Corporan in their only meeting.

The Astros were no less sloppy than their opponents, at least early in the game. The Brewers were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position in the second inning and yet scored three runs courtesy of a pair of two-out errors -- one run when Astros second baseman Jose Altuve couldn't come up with a spinning, broken-bat bouncer off Gennett's bat, and two more when center fielder Justin Maxwell botched Caleb Gindl's fly ball to deep left-center field.

Gindl, making his first Major League start and still seeking his first hit, had hit a drive toward the visitors' bullpen, where it appeared Maxwell was distracted by a padded support structure that juts onto the field. The baseball bounced out of Maxwell's glove and two runners scored.

Gallardo cruised until his defenders let him down in a 28-pitch fifth inning, when Lucroy's passed ball led to two unearned runs. The catcher took the blame, saying Gallardo's pitch continued to cut inside toward the hitter, and Lucroy anticipated a deflection into his mask.

"I just screwed it up," Lucroy said. "You can't be giving bases for free and like I said, I was a big part of that today. We have to get that cleaned up."

The Brewers stranded runners at third base in the eighth inning and made an out at the plate to end the ninth before losing the game in the 10th. The first of those threats particularly irked Lucroy, who had the second of the Brewers' three chances to drive home Gomez from third base after the speedster reached there with nobody out. Aramis Ramirez grounded out, Lucroy struck out and, after an intentional walk, Yuniesky Betancourt struck out, too.

"We beat ourselves today," Lucroy said. "We have to be able to get runners in from third base when there are less than two outs. You have to at least make contact -- and I'm talking about myself right there striking out.

"I screwed up the block [on Gonzalez's] wild pitch in that last inning and I had that clank on the ball [with Gallardo pitching in the fifth]. Team-wise, we pitched decent, I thought, but we didn't hit when we needed to and our defense was not good today at all, and I'm talking about myself."

Said Roenicke: "We didn't do too many things right today, in all areas."

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