Sometimes when an MLB team scores a bunch of runs quickly, or in the first game of a series, it's natural to jokingly interject a caveat like: "Hey, save some offense for later!"
It actually worked out that way for the Milwaukee Brewers' most recent opponent, the Houston Astros, who failed to score in the final 19 innings of their series at American Family Field after routing the home team in the opener.
Behind another frugal pitching performance Wednesday, this time by right-hander Adrian Houser and four relievers, the Brewers collectively four-hit the Astros 4-0 to take the rubber match. A day earlier, right-hander Colin Rea picked up his first victory as a starter since 2016 in a 6-0 win.
"Another great pitching performance by a bunch of guys," Brewers manager Craig Counsell told reporters, referring to Houser, Joel Payamps, Bryse Wilson, Jake Cousins and Hoby Milner.
"Adrian was really good today. There's a confidence to him right now," added Counsell, who also praised catcher William Contreras for effectively teaming with Houser and the others.
Brewers' Counsell on Houser's strong stuff: 'The sinker and the 4-seam fastball are really good'
The Astros appeared unstoppable in Monday's opener, blowing out Milwaukee 12-2 with Houston jumping all over right-hander Corbin Burnes for four home runs in five innings. Those results raised the possibility of the Brewers staff being overworked in ensuing days, but Rea and Houser came through with a combined 10 2/3 scoreless innings. The relief was just as stingy.
Milwaukee limited the action on the bases for the rest of the series. The Astros managed nine hits combined (including two doubles) and five walks and racked up 15 strikeouts. Expected to be better offensively this season, the reigning World Series champions rank 17th in runs scored with 213.
Houston did rally in the sixth, putting runners in scoring position for Yordan Álvarez, but Payamps caught him looking for strike three. Kyle Tucker lined out hard to end the inning as the Astros' best scoring chance evaporated.
"He's pitched wonderfully, and he's getting big outs," Counsell said of Payamps, who has been waived multiple times and has pitched for five different MLB teams since 2019. No matter, he has a 3.15 career ERA, including 2.22 this season to go with 28 strikeouts in 24 1/3 innings.
On Wednesday, Houser retired 14 straight batters during one stretch, using his sinker and four-seam fastball effectively. He lowered his ERA to 2.25 in four starts, which have been a huge boost for the Brewers with three starting pitchers on the injured list — Brandon Woodruff, Eric Lauer and Wade Miley. Houser also posted six scoreless innings in his previous start last Friday against the Tampa Bay Rays, allowing four hits and a walk.
Outings like those from Houser, Rea and the bullpen have allowed Milwaukee to keep a two-game lead on the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Central, even with injury issues in the rotation. Woodruff, who's on the 60-day IL because of shoulder discomfort, reportedly has been making progress on his rehab.