Series: Game 3 of 4

Milwaukee leads 2-1 (as of 9/27)

Game 1: Thursday, September 25
Game 2: Friday, September 26
Game 3: Saturday, September 27
Game 4: Sunday, September 28

Brewers 5

(68-93, 37-43 away)

Astros 2

(86-75, 47-33 home)

    1:15 PM ET, September 27, 2003

    Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas 

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    MIL 002003000 5 9 2
    HOU 100000100 2 10 1

    W: W. Obermueller (2-5)

    L: R. Villone (6-6)

    S: D. Kolb (21)

    Houston stumbles down stretch

    HOUSTON (AP) -- The Houston Astros left Minute Maid Park on Saturday still in the NL Central race, at least mathematically. A few hours later, their dreams for a division title disappeared.

    The Astros lost to last-place Milwaukee for the second straight day, falling 5-2 Saturday. Houston began the day a half-game behind Chicago, which swept Pittsburgh in a doubleheader and won its first division title since 1989.

    "This whole week has been a playoff atmosphere because every game, every pitch has meant something," Astros catcher Brad Ausmus said after Houston lost. "You're a little drained at the end of each game, but certainly we've been ready at the start. We just didn't end up on top the last two games."

    The loss sent the Astros wondering what went wrong down the stretch.

    "I guess if I knew what happened, we'd have done something to change it," Jeff Kent said. "The Cubbies have played well lately and we haven't. We've been just running on empty."

    Leading 2-1 to start the sixth, the Brewers got five straight hits off Ron Villone (6-6) and Brad Lidge in a three-run inning that put Milwaukee in control.

    Wes Helms hit a two-out home run, his 23rd. After consecutive singles by Eddie Perez, Royce Clayton and Wes Obermueller (2-5), Scott Podsednik doubled off the left-field wall and two more runs scored for a 5-1 lead.

    Astros general manager Gerry Hunsicker saw it coming.

    "I guess it was two days ago I sensed that we were trying to force something out there," Hunsicker said. "We were trying to make things happen and the guys were too tight. They were trying too hard, making forced errors."

    Podsednik, who drove in three runs, had an RBI triple and Bill Hall hit an RBI single in the third. All five Milwaukee runs came with two outs.

    Obermueller snapped a five-game losing streak in his last start Sept. 21 against Arizona. He pitched a career-high eight innings against the Astros and allowed 10 hits and two earned runs, walking none.

    "He pitched the game of his life," Milwaukee manager Ned Yost said. "After the first inning he had some jitters. I told Wes, `Look the pressure's not on you, it's on them. Settle down and stay on the attack and let the pressure that's on them work to your advantage.' He did. He got in a great groove after that."

    Villone, 0-4 in his last six starts, retired the first seven batters until Royce Clayton doubled in the third. Podsednik then tripled and Hall singled for a 2-1 lead.

    "The most frustrating thing for us is just getting so close and not being able to grab it, not being able to take the bull by the horns," Villone said.

    Houston appeared ready to jump on the Brewers in the first inning but ended up with just one run off Obermueller.

    Craig Biggio and Morgan Ensberg opened with line-drive singles. Jeff Bagwell grounded into a force play and Kent hit an RBI single.

    After Lance Berkman reached on first baseman Richie Sexson's throwing error, Richard Hidalgo -- hitting .176 for the homestand -- hit into a double play to end the inning.

    Ensberg hit his 25th homer in the seventh, tying Doug Rader for the most homers hit by an Astros third baseman in a season.

    Villone pitched 5 2-3 innings. He allowed eight hits, five earned runs and he walked two and struck out six.

    Billy Wagner, who pitched Houston's final inning, didn't think the Astros are drained.

    "We've played like Game 7 from day one," Wagner said. "We battled day in and day out. Fatigue has got to be in there, but that's an excuse to use fatigue. Sometimes, it just goes that way."

    Game notes

    Kent needs one double to become the fifth player in major league history to hit 40 doubles in five consecutive seasons. Wade Boggs had 40 or more doubles seven straight years. ... Jeriome Robertson (15-9) would be the first rookie in franchise history to lead the Astros in wins. Wade Miller, 14-13, pitches on Sunday. ... Lidge made his 78th appearance tying the NL record for appearances in a season, set last season by teammate Ricky Stone.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press