The Brewers trailed all night against Houston starter Wandy Rodriguez (5-2), who allowed only Mike Cameron's solo home run in seven strong innings, but they nearly rallied back in the ninth inning.
Cameron, J.J. Hardy and Casey McGehee all reached safely leading off the frame against reliever Alberto Arias. Enter Chris Sampson, who recorded an out at the plate on a fielder's choice grounder but then gave up a first-pitch, two-run double to pinch-hitter Mat Gamel. Corey Hart followed with a run-scoring groundout that cut the deficit to two runs.
Sampson recovered, needing three pitches to strike out Bill Hall on a long night for the Brewers' third baseman, who finished 0-for-5 with four whiffs. With left-handed hitter Craig Counsell available on the bench, manager Ken Macha said he wanted to give Hall a chance to reestablish himself against right-handed pitching.
"Right now, I just can't seem to get a hit against anybody," Hall said.
The Astros got plenty of hits off Gallardo -- seven of them -- over five-plus innings. Gallardo (4-2) caught a break when Michael Bourn led off the game for the Astros instead of Kazuo Matsui, who was listed as the leadoff hitter on the official lineup card exchanged before the game. Matsui never left the batter's box but was nonetheless out, and Bourn, who had singled, batted again. The second time, he walked.
Lance Berkman followed with an RBI double, and the Astros were off. Miguel Tejada hit a home run leading off the second inning and an RBI double in the sixth that knocked Gallardo out of the game, and Hunter Pence hit a two-run triple as Houston built leads of 4-0 and 6-1.
"I was falling behind hitters, and I just wasn't able to put them away when I needed to, pretty much all night," Gallardo said. "Tejada's home run, I was behind in the count, and that's something you can't do. ... It hurt me today."
Gallardo learned a lesson about baseball's rulebook along the way. When Macha approached plate umpire Eric Cooper about the Astros' mistake, Gallardo had no idea what was going on. As the umpires conferred to straighten things out, Gallardo played catch with catcher Jason Kendall.
After a short delay, Bourn was back in the box. Gallardo insisted the mix-up did not contribute to his out-of-sync night.
"I had no idea what was going on, but there's no excuses today," Gallardo said. "I think we all know I didn't have the command I had in my last three or four starts. It's going to happen. There are going to be these games now and then, but you have to fight through them and then forget about them."
Instead of that delay, the problem might have been too much rest. Gallardo threw 30 pitches in his previous start, on Friday in St. Louis, before the game was rained out. Instead of slotting him to pitch Monday's makeup, the Brewers essentially skipped Gallardo's turn in the rotation and kept him on track to start Wednesday.
That meant he had thrown only those 30 pitches in the past 10 days.
"I talked to 'Yo,' and he felt like he was a little strong," Macha said. "He had some misplaced pitches. He had good velocity, I thought his curveball was sharp and his slider was pretty good, too. So he had good velocity on his pitches but bad location on some."
Could it be a learning experience for the budding ace?
"For a guy with that many innings, every time out should be a learning experience," Macha said.
Cameron hit his solo home run leading off the fourth inning, leaving him one shy of becoming the 20th Major Leaguer to reach 250 home runs and 250 stolen bases, but Brewers hitters were otherwise held in check by Rodriguez. In seven innings, the lefty surrendered the lone run on six hits with one walk and five strikeouts for his fourth straight win.
"I thought early on he was pounding the strike zone with his fastball, and then when he got behind he threw some changeups," Macha said. "And then during the game he put that curveball in play and started back-footing our guys to strike people out."
The Brewers have not lost a series since they dropped two of three to the Mets from April 17-19. They need to beat Roy Oswalt and the Astros on Thursday night to keep that streak alive.