HOUSTON — On a night when the Milwaukee Brewers struck out again and again, piling up a season-high 24 Ks against the Houston Astros, one big swing by Mike Moustakas made all those whiffs way easier to swallow.
Moustakas hit a two-run homer during Milwaukee's three-run 14th inning, as the Brewers struck out 15 times against Houston ace Justin Verlander before rallying for a 6-3 victory over the Astros on Wednesday.
Christian Yelich started the 14th with a single against rookie Cionel Perez (1-1) for Milwaukee's first hit since the ninth. After Ryan Braun lined out, Moustakas hit a drive to right for his 21st homer.
"Obviously, 24 punchouts isn't what we were looking for, but ... we got a W so we turned a negative into a positive and found a way to win against a great ballclub over there," Moustakas said.
Jesús Aguilar added a pinch-hit RBI single as Milwaukee won for the fifth time in six games. Ryan Braun, Yasmani Grandal and Eric Thames also went deep for the Brewers, and Adrian Houser (2-1) pitched two scoreless innings for the victory.
"I bet you there's not too many times a team struck out 24 times and won the game," Yelich said. "All those weird baseball things happen and that's another example of it. Honestly, it's just a really good win and a hard-fought win."
Verlander set a career high for Ks while allowing three runs in seven innings. The 2011 AL Cy Young Award winner led the way as Houston set a franchise record for strikeouts, surpassing its previous record of 23 during a 15-inning game on May 31, 2003, against the Chicago Cubs.
"It would feel a lot better if we won," Verlander said. "Yeah, cool, great, but we didn't win the baseball game."
Houston had a 3-2 lead before Thames connected in the seventh inning for Milwaukee's third homer off Verlander. It was Thames' ninth of the season.
Each team had late chances to go in front.
Jake Marisnick singled off Houser with one out in the 13th. Marisnick stole second base, but Houser retired Josh Reddick and Alex Bregman to end the threat.
Pinch hitter Myles Straw walked leading off the Houston 10th, but was caught trying to steal second base. He was initially called safe, but the Brewers challenged the call and it was overturned. Josh Hader walked Tyler White, but Marisnick grounded into a double play to end the inning.
"Hitting is hard. They threw some pretty good arms at us," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "They're a good team, and yes, it doesn't feel good when you go quietly like that."
Singles by Yelich and Moustakas left runners at first and third with one out in the ninth. But Roberto Osuna struck out Grandal and Thames to escape the jam.
Verlander surrendered solo drives to Braun in the first and Grandal in the second before settling into a groove. He retired 17 of 18 after Grandal's 15th homer, with Milwaukee's only baserunner coming on a double by Thames to start the fifth.
Verlander, who had fanned 14 four times in his career, struck out eight of his last 10 batters, including the side in the sixth.
Milwaukee's Brandon Woodruff also yielded three runs and four hits in seven innings.
The Brewers led 2-0 before the Astros scored three times in the fourth. Robinson Chirinos singled in Yuli Gurriel before Tony Kemp doubled in two runs.
Yelich and Moustakas each had two hits. Yelich extended his hitting streak to 10 games, which is the longest streak for the Brewers this season, and Moustakas has hit safely in 10 of the last 11 games.
Chacin to face Padres
Jhoulys Chacín was cleared to come off the injured list on Monday and start the Brewers’ series opener at San Diego, manager Craig Counsell confirmed.
Chacin, who has been sidelined since June 2 with a lower back strain, threw a 50-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday, a positive indicator he was nearing a return to the rotation. It’s likely he’ll throw another side session prior to his outing vs. the Padres.
“I feel fine, and I’m anxious to get back to the process,” the 31-year-old veteran right-hander said.
What this means for right-hander Freddy Peralta remains to be seen. Monday would be Peralta’s turn in the rotation, but Counsell said Chacin pitching that day doesn’t mean Peralta is the odd man out.
It’s fair to speculate Peralta could be bumped, however. The right-hander has served as a reliever and starter this year, and though he was locating his pitches well during his outing vs. Houston on Tuesday, he struggled to stay ahead of the Astros, especially with his fastball.
Peralta’s two-pitch fastball-curveball arsenal may translate better long-term in the bullpen. Overall, he is 3-3 with a 5.81 ERA over 12 games, including eight starts, in 2019.
From Chacin, Counsell is looking for more crispness with his pitches. On May 31 in Pittsburgh, Chacin allowed six hits, seven runs and walked four — including walking in three runs in one inning. He lasted just 2⅔ innings.
Left-hander Gio Gonzalez, sidelined since May 29 with arm fatigue, played catch for a third straight day and will resume his program after Thursday’s off day in San Francisco.
“We’ll ramp it up another step,” Counsell said. “Not bullpens (yet), but with more intensity. Just keep taking positive steps.”
Counsell was reminded more than a few times that Wednesday was the 12-year anniversary of Verlander’s no-hitter, which he threw against the Brewers, in his second full season with the Tigers.
Why did this come up in conversation so much? Two reasons — Verlander started Wednesday, and Counsell was on that Brewers team that was no-hit by the former American League Cy Young Award winner that day in Detroit.
What else does the skipper remember? He started at third base, in place of Braun, who was then a rookie.
Against Verlander, Counsell was 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts.
“The first pitch I struck out on was a ball,” Counsell recalled. “Then I looked bad on another strikeout — a really good curveball.”
Milwaukee is off Thursday before Zach Davies (7-0, 2.41 ERA) starts in the opener of a three-game series at San Francisco on Friday night. Davies allowed three runs in five innings in a 5-3 win over Pittsburgh in his last start.