Gallardo, Brewers shut out Astros to keep pace in Central

" Figure this: Gallardo hasn't allowed a run in 21 innings, a streak that began when he threw seven shutout innings against Houston on Sept. 5.

" Quotable: "We're past the 'surprise' stage. We're into the 'real-confident-every-time-he-steps-on-the-mound' phase." -- Brewers manager Ned Yost on the rookie Gallardo

" Unsung hero: Corey Hart hit a two-run double in the first, giving Milwaukee all the offense it would need.

" Hunt for October: The Brewers remain one game back of the Cubs in the NL Central as Chicago rallied to beat Cincinnati 7-6.

-- ESPN.com news services

Brewers 6, Astros 0

HOUSTON (AP) -- Most of the Milwaukee Brewers kept an eye on the scoreboard in left field during Monday's game in Houston, eager to see what the Chicago Cubs were doing against Cincinnati.

Yovani Gallardo never looked. He was too busy focusing on another dominant performance.

The 21-year-old rookie baffled Houston for the second time in two weeks and Corey Hart hit a two-run double, leading the Brewers to a 6-0 victory over the Astros.

"I didn't even look at it once," Gallardo said. "I had other things to take care of. I've got to take care of business and see what happens after that."

Minutes after the game ended, the Brewers huddled around a television in the clubhouse and watched the Cubs beat the Reds to maintain their one-game lead over Milwaukee in the NL Central.

"Playing for something this year is a lot better than trying to play the spoiler, like we were the last couple of years," Hart said. "It's definitely gratifying to be here."

Pitching in front of about a dozen family members, Gallardo (9-4) allowed seven hits and struck out five in a season-high eight innings to win his fourth consecutive start. He hasn't allowed a run in 21 innings, a streak that began when he threw seven shutout innings against the Astros in Milwaukee's 14-2 victory on Sept. 5.

The Brewers purchased Gallardo's contract from Triple-A Nashville on June 14 to replace the injured Chris Capuano. He's been so good manager Ned Yost doesn't even consider him a rookie.

"We're past the 'surprise' stage," Yost said. "We're into the 'real-confident-every-time-he-steps-on-the-mound' phase."

Prince Fielder singled to extend his hitting streak to 15 games and Kevin Mench homered in the ninth off Mark McLemore for Milwaukee.

Rookie Josh Anderson had two hits for the Astros, who've lost nine of their last 12 games. Houston was shut out for the seventh time.

"Gallardo was tough. It's pretty easy to sum up," Houston manager Cecil Cooper said. "Last time, he threw up seven zeros against us, this time he threw eight. He is really, really tough when he gets a lead and that was the case tonight."

Milwaukee jumped in front in the first against Matt Albers (4-9). Rickie Weeks led off the game with a walk, stole second and took third when Humberto Quintero's throw skipped into center field for an error. Joe Dillon then grounded to shortstop Mark Loretta, who threw home to get Weeks for the first out.

Albers hit Ryan Braun with a pitch before Hart lined a two-run double into the gap in left-center.

Fielder led off the fourth with a single to left and went to third on Hart's single to right. Fielder trotted home when Hunter Pence's throw bounced past third baseman Ty Wigginton. Pence was charged with an error.

Gabe Gross then doubled over Pence's head to score Hart and make it 4-0. Gross went to third on a wild pitch and scored on Johnny Estrada's flyout.

"I will throw a couple of good pitches and then I will leave one over the plate," Albers said. "It's frustrating, but I have to keep going. This was a real tough game, but things are just not going my way."

J.J. Hardy singled and Cooper replaced Albers with Dave Borkowski.

Gallardo, meanwhile, breezed through the first four innings, allowing two harmless singles by Anderson and Quintero. The Astros put two runners aboard with two outs in the fifth and sixth, but Gallardo retired the next batter each time.

"He's a kid that steps his game up when he gets in trouble," Yost said. "He's got another gear that he saves for only when he needs it."

Gallardo needed only six pitches to glide through the seventh, finishing the inning by striking out Anderson.

Lance Berkman walked with one out in the Astros' eighth and went to third on Carlos Lee's single to center. Gallardo then struck out Pence and got Loretta on a groundout.

"I just made quality pitches whenever I had to," Gallardo said.

Mench pinch-hit for Gallardo in the ninth and homered off the brick facade in left field. Mench's eighth homer of the season was the first of his career as a pinch hitter. He was 4-for-45 as a pinch hitter before the homer.

Chris Spurling retired the Astros in order in the bottom half to complete the seven-hitter.

Game notes
Fielder scored his 100th run and became the fifth player in Brewers' history to reach 100 RBIs and 100 runs in the same season. Cooper is one of the other four. ... Anderson reached base in nine consecutive plate appearances before striking out in the seventh. ... The Brewers have hit 209 homers this season, tied for second-most in franchise history. The Brewers hit 216 homers in 1982.