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MIL@HOU: Aoki homers, drives in two to pace Brewers

HOUSTON -- It wasn't as easy as it looked, but Brewers starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo turned in yet another quality start on Friday and he had the backing of a three-homer night as Milwaukee rolled to a 7-1 win over the Astros in front of 23,430 at Minute Maid Park.

It was a good start to the three-game series against a Houston team that has now lost nine consecutive games.

"My command wasn't where I wanted it to be, but I was able to make pitches when I had to," Gallardo said. "It was tough today."

Gallardo was coming off his best outing of the season, a 6 2/3 inning stint at Miller Park against Arizona. The question was, could he follow it up on the road? Prior to Friday's outing, Gallardo was just 3-4 with a 4.47 ERA in eight starts away from home this season.

He was in the right place to do it. Before Friday's start Gallardo was 10-2 lifetime against the Astros, a team he has more wins against than any other. He was 3-0 against Houston last year with a 2.14 ERA in three starts and Friday's victory extending his personal win streak to eight games over the Astros.

Gallardo improved to 4-2 in six career starts at Minute Maid Park.

"They made me work today," he said. "It for sure wasn't an easy game. They scored one run, but I was giving it all I had every pitch. They were taking some pretty good pitches, fouling off some good pitches. It was a lot of hard work."

Since his rookie season of 2007 only two pitchers have more wins against Houston, both with 11. Gallardo joined that group by working six innings Friday, yielding just four hits, including a first-inning homer to Astros right fielder Scott Moore. Gallardo struck out six and walked three. It was his sixth consecutive quality start and third win over that span.

"It was just a nice job by 'Yo' to keep them down and we got a couple of big hits," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "He came through with some big pitches. He's got so many different weapons that he can use. And when he gets in a tight spot and he's locating with those pitches, it's going to be pretty tough for them to hit the located pitches."

Gallardo worked out of a second-inning bases-loaded jam with a strikeout of Astros leadoff hitter Jordan Schafer. He cruised after that, allowing just one hit over the final four innings. He walked two in the sixth inning, but got out of trouble again with another strikeout, fanning Houston catcher Jason Castro.

"I think we saw right away, that first-pitch fastball -- they were waiting," Roenicke said of Gallardo's early struggles. "So I think it played into Yo's advantage because he has such great command of his off-speed pitches that he can get them off balance with, and then to slip a fast ball in when he wants to. But he did change after the first inning or two.

"He's strung together a lot of good games in a row now. As the game went on, I thought his rhythm got better and his command got better."

And he got solid run-production as well, especially from Norichika Aoki who wasted little time in extending his hitting streak to 13 games, the second-longest by a Brewer this season. Aoki pulled a 3-2 pitch from Houston lefty starter J.A. Happ, sending it into the right-field seats for a first-inning solo homer. It was Aoki's fifth homer of the season.

"It was a 3-2 fastball," Aoki said through an interpreter. "I was thinking I would take a walk or if it's a good pitch to hit, then I'll hit it. Luckily it was a good pitch to hit and I was able to hit a home run."

Aoki added an RBI single, stole a base, and scored in a three-run seventh that put the game out of reach.

"Against lefties, he's really good," Roenicke said. "I don't know what the reason is."

Aoki had no answer, either.

"I feel the same going in against a righty or a lefty," said Aoki. "We were shut out yesterday and I felt that it was important to get on the board early and make it a little easier on our starting pitcher."

Ryan Braun followed Aoki's first-inning bomb with his National League leading 24th homer of the season. It was the third time this season that the Brewers had gone back-to-back. Braun was also involved the last time it happened, June 16, at Minnesota. He preceded Aramis Ramirez on that occasion.

"You never want to fall behind in the first inning, but I felt fine after that and felt like I was making pitches and the two more in the sixth and the seventh was the real issue there," Happ said. "We weren't going to win tonight with the two, but at least we're in the game and things could have turned out different. The sixth and seventh was the problem."

Rickie Weeks belted a two-run shot in the sixth, his seventh homer of the season. Both Corey Hart and Ramirez delivered a pair of doubles, and leadoff hitter Carlos Gomez chipped in an RBI triple and scored a run in the seventh.

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