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Astros-Brewers Preview

AP - Sports

Yovani Gallardo has acknowledged he's in the midst of the toughest stretch of his major league career.

A start against the Houston Astros - a team wrapping up its worst month in franchise history - could be just what he needs.

Gallardo looks to continue his dominance in the series Tuesday night and send the sputtering Astros to their 27th loss in 30 games.

The Brewers (46-56) scored four runs in both the seventh and eighth innings in Monday's opener and hung on for an 8-7 victory - just their second in 11 games.

"We've had so many games like this that have gone against us," Corey Hart told the Brewers' official website. "Maybe this is the momentum we need."

While Hart is looking for something positive to build on, Milwaukee essentially conceded the season by sending Zack Greinke to the Los Angeles Angels on Friday. That trade leaves Gallardo (8-8, 4.07 ERA) in charge of leading the rotation, but he hasn't looked the part lately.

After allowing four runs and a season-high nine hits in 5 2-3 innings in a 6-2 loss to Cincinnati on July 21, Gallardo was tagged for seven runs and seven hits in five innings in Thursday's 8-2 loss to Washington.

This is a stark contrast from his previous four starts, in which he had a 1.40 ERA. That stretch included a win at Houston on July 6, when he gave up one run and four hits in six innings of a 7-1 victory.

That outing is indicative of Gallardo's mastery over the Astros (35-69), who at 3-23 are already assured of finishing July with their lowest winning percentage for a single month in franchise history. The right-hander has won his last eight starts in the series since losing Aug. 9, 2009, and has an 0.86 ERA in the last three.

To extend the winning streak, however, Gallardo might have to rely on a beleaguered bullpen to protect a potential lead.

The Brewers, who dismissed bullpen coach Stan Kyles before Monday's game, have a 9.24 ERA from their relief pitchers in their last eight contests. In the opener, Livan Hernandez and Kameron Loe gave up four runs in 1 1-3 innings before once-demoted closer John Axford got the final two outs to drop the Astros to 3-26 since July 30.

With Ryan Braun sitting out because of blisters on his left hand, Cody Ransom came up with Milwaukee's big hit, belting a three-run homer in the eighth.

Braun, who leads the NL with 28 home runs but is mired in a 2-for-17 slump, is expected to be back in the lineup as the Brewers get their first look at rookie Dallas Keuchel (1-3, 4.63).

Keuchel was impressive in his first three major league starts - posting a 1.35 ERA - but he has been anything but in his last three - recording a 9.00 ERA while losing each. Against Pittsburgh on Thursday, the left-hander permitted five runs and five hits - including three homers - in six innings of a 5-3 final. One positive to take from the outing, though, is he settled down after allowing all the runs in the first two innings.

"He was able to right himself and keep it right there until the end," Houston manager Brad Mills said. "He did a good job of keeping it right there and making some adjustments as he was moving forward.''

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