MILWAUKEE (AP) - The Houston Astros hitting woes on the road returned.
After getting a road-best 14 hits in each of the first two games against the Milwaukee Brewers, Houston managed just five against Randy Wolf and John Axford in a 4-1 loss on Sunday.
Coming into the series, Houston had hit .233 on the road in its first nine games and it looked to be turning a corner against Milwaukee before managing an J.R. Towles solo homer and three singles against Randy Wolf.
Two of the hits off Wolf (3-2) came from pitcher Wandy Rodriguez (1-3) and the Astros were scoreless until Towles went deep with two outs in the eighth.
``We never got any momentum. He got the early lead. He made sure he kept it,' Astros second baseman Bill Hall said. ``You can't feed on fastballs when the guy has a 60 mph curveball. He was on his game. He didn't make any mistakes, except the one pitch to Towlesie.'
Axford converted his fourth save as Milwaukee won its third straight home series. He worked around a one-out single on his bobblehead day as Milwaukee improved to 7-3 at home this season.
The roof at Miller Park was closed, but that didn't stop a small hawk from grabbing everyone's attention. The hawk attacked another bird in center field in the top of the third, then landed in shallow right field to watch the bottom of the half with Astros right fielder Hunter Pence giving it plenty of distance.
``He was on the outfield grass, hanging out,' Hall said. ``Wasn't a lot of action during the time he was out there. I don't know when he got up and flew away. Obviously, he was having a good time out there just relaxing.'
The bird certainly had the best perch for the Brewers' three-run third.
Rickie Weeks homered in his return after missing one game with a sprained left pinkie finger to make it 2-0 and Carlos Gomez singled and stole second.
After Ryan Braun struck out, Prince Fielder tripled for the ninth time in his career when left fielder Jason Michaels made an ill-advised diving attempt at a catch. Casey McGehee followed with a run-scoring single that gave Milwaukee a 4-0 lead.
The whole time the hawk remained stationary in right field, finally flying away when first base umpire Angel Hernandez began to approach it after the third.
Rodriguez went seven innings, allowing 10 hits and striking out nine. He got out of a bases-loaded jam with one out in the fifth, but was gone before the Astros finally broke through against Wolf.
``There's no doubt that was big for him to work so deep into the game,' Astros manager Brad Mills said. ``The one thing about Wandy so far this season, he struggled the first couple of innings. Then he's been able to settle down and throw the ball pretty well. That was exactly how he was able to do today.'
Wolf followed up on strong starts at Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, where he outpitched NL Cy Young winner Roy Halladay, by using a mix of fastballs in the high 80s mph and a slow breaking ball against the Astros.
His only hint of trouble came with two outs in the third when Rodriguez and Jason Bourgeois hit consecutive singles. Wolf got Angel Sanchez to pop out to center to end the threat.
``Any time you got a guy that's hitting his spots like that, he's going to be tough to beat,' Hall said. ``You try to put on good at bats, but he stayed away from the barrel. He stayed away from the big inning.'
NOTES: Rodriguez threw a career-high 126 pitches. ... Astros CF Michael Bourn had his eight-game hitting streak snapped after striking out as a pinch hitter in the ninth. ... Houston didn't hit a double for the first time in 19 games. ... Astros INF Clint Barmes (broken left hand) will begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Oklahoma City on Monday, playing two games there before joining Double-A Corpus Christi on Wednesday.
The Associated Press News Service
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