MILWAUKEE -- You can only take solace in pushing your opponent to the limit for so long. At some point, satisfaction is replaced by disappointment, and simply having the tying run at the plate late in the game isn't good enough anymore.
The Astros are at that point.
There was frustration in every corner of the visitor's clubhouse at Miller Park after another late-inning rally by the Astros came up short, allowing the Brewers to hold on for a 9-6 win Tuesday night and send Houston to its 11th loss in 14 games.
"We're in every game," said Astros center fielder Jordan Schafer, who had a hit to extend his streak of reaching base safely to 18 games to start the season. "It's aggravating; we're in every game and we're not finding a way to win. It's beyond aggravating."
All but one of the Astros' 12 losses have been by three runs or less, and they've had a chance to tie or take in the lead in the later innings in most of those. On Tuesday, Houston had the tying run at the plate in the eighth inning, and on deck in the ninth.
"It's tough, man," catcher Chris Snyder said. "We're plugging away. We're putting runs up late in the game and we're making a push. We're making guys use their bullpen and bring their closer in the game, and even in the ninth we're putting guys on base and giving ourselves a chance. We're just not finishing it off. It's early, and once we get over that hump, we'll see what happens from there."
The Brewers slugged a season-high four homers off Astros pitching, including three against starter Bud Norris. Norris gave up a two-run homer to Travis Ishikawa in the fifth, a two-run homer to Corey Hart and a three-run homer to Rickie Weeks -- both in the sixth -- that put Milwaukee ahead, 7-2.
"I was pitching well and ran into one really bad inning," Norris said. "I felt I made a couple of good pitches, a couple of bad ones, and a good ballclub can hit the ball out of the yard. That's something I need to get better at and move on."
Norris (1-1) was roughed up for nine hits and seven runs in 5 2/3 innings, with all seven runs coming via the long ball. He had allowed just two hits in the first four frames, and in the third became the first Astros pitcher since 2004 to strike out four batters in an inning.
"These guys [Astros] have been playing from behind all year and battling really hard and beating up a couple of bullpens," Norris said. "We've swung the bats really well late in games, but another one got away from me to Weeks, and that's what good hitters do."
Weeks was hit in the back by Norris leading off the game in apparent retaliation for the Brewers' Mat Gamel flattening Astros catcher Jason Castro at home plate on Monday. Norris said the pitch simply got away from him, but hinted it wasn't an accident.
"It kind of got away from me," Norris said. "I'm going to go out there and stand up for my team. I think the umpires handled it professionally, our team handled it professionally and Rickie handled it professionally as well. Nothing personal against him. It is what it is."
Brewers starter Randy Wolf, who had allowed 15 earned runs in 15 1/3 innings over his first three starts, righted the ship by allowing four hits and two runs in six innings.
"Norris usually pitches very well against us, and for five innings, he was really tough," Wolf said. "That bottom of the sixth was really big for us, to get those five runs. This team right here, the Astros, are going to be underestimated, and they shouldn't be. They really give quality at-bats. They don't give away at-bats. They put good swings on tough pitches. I think as the season goes on, they're going to gain a lot of respect, as far as their offense."
The Astros were 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 runners on base. After Hart and Weeks homered in the sixth to open up a five-run lead, the Astros loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh, but managed only one run on a slow grounder to shortstop.
Houston scored three times in the eighth to cut the lead to 8-6 on RBIs by Chris Johnson, Justin Maxwell and Jed Lowrie, but John Axford converted his 47th consecutive save by sending down the final three batters he faced in the ninth after a Carlos Lee leadoff single.
"We had some runners in scoring positions and we didn't score, and we had guys at third and less than two outs and it would have been nice to pick it up," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "We gave ourselves that opportunity and kept coming back."