Counsell lifts Brewers over Astros

MILWAUKEE — Craig Counsell has had the kind of resurgence this month that could make everybody forget he turns 39 later this month.

Counsell had three hits, including his career-high seventh triple, and drove in three runs to help the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Houston Astros 6-2 on Saturday night.

“Can’t stop the calendar,” said Counsell, who is batting .294 after hitting just .226 last year. “I definitely have done a better job of driving the ball this year, and that’s important. Those usually mean runs.”

The victory gave Milwaukee three straight for the first time since sweeping Cleveland on June 15-17.

“It’s been awhile, there’s no doubt about that,” said Counsell, who made adjustments in his batting stance during the offseason. “We can call it a winning streak, finally. We haven’t been able to do that for a while. You can call three games a winning streak.”

Houston has lost five of six games to fall 9 1/2 games behind St. Louis, the farthest out of first the Astros have been in the NL Central this year.

“We need something to shake us pretty quickly here because time is beginning to run out on us,” said Houston manager Cecil Cooper, whose top four hitters went 0 for 13 with two walks.

“We need to get a streak going,” he added. “Either it has to be one big base hit to blow a game open or get us going or one great start, we need something.”

Mike Burns (3-4) gave up two runs on four hits and three walks while striking out seven in his seventh big league start. The right-hander, facing an Astros team that drafted him in the 30th round in 2000, tossed a shutout until Hunter Pence hit a two-run homer in the seventh.

“When I first got here, I kind of got away from my game plan and went with a lot of off-speed pitches,” Burns said. “My off-speed stuff is probably average to below-average.

“What I do well is command my fastball and I like to pitch inside,” he said. “The last couple of outings it helped by using my fastball, pounding it in. It does open up the outside part of the plate and it also helps make the off-speed pitches better.”

Houston starter Brian Moehler (7-9) pitched five innings, giving up three runs and 10 hits.

“We started to notice in the first and second innings they were sitting off-speed with two strikes,” Moehler said. “After that I settled down. By that time I had thrown a lot of pitches.”

Counsell had a pair of singles and a triple, and is 9 for 19 against Houston this year.

Felipe Lopez had three hits for Milwaukee and rookie shortstop Alcides Escobar had two hits and scored two runs in his third major league start. The Brewers had 13 hits one night after getting 14 hits in an 11-2 victory over Houston.

Astros pitching has struggled recently, giving up at least 10 hits in 10 of 12 games.

Frank Catalanotto doubled to open the second, moved to third on a groundout and scored on Burns’ RBI groundout. Escobar and Lopez then hit consecutive singles and scored on Counsell’s triple down the right-field line for a 3-0 lead.

Milwaukee scored three more in the sixth. Escobar, who replaced J.J. Hardy at shortstop, singled and moved to third on Lopez’s single. Counsell’s single made it 4-0, Lopez scored on Prince Fielder’s sacrifice fly, and Counsell scored on Mike Cameron’s groundout.

David Weathers pitched the eighth inning and Todd Coffey worked the ninth.

NOTES: Brewers RHP Jeff Suppan made a 39-pitch rehab start for Class-A Wisconsin, giving up four runs and five hits in 3 1-3 innings. Suppan has been on the DL since July 30 with a left oblique strain, but could start for Milwaukee next weekend at Washington. … Dave Bush threw a 45-pitch simulated game and will make a rehab start Tuesday night. Bush has been on the DL since June 23 with a micro tear of his right triceps muscle. … Houston’s Kaz Matsui had an infield single in the third, giving him 2,000 hits combined in his careers in Japan and the major leagues. … The victory evened Milwaukee’s record at 58-58.

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