HOUSTON (AP) -- Ben Sheets wants to work on his home-run trot. He certainly saw a few Thursday and got some practice as well.
Sheets drew a walk just before Corey Hart hit one of the Milwaukee Brewers four home runs in a 9-6 win over the Houston Astros.While the Brewers brought the offense, Sheets struck out a season-high nine to lead Milwaukee to its ninth win in 12 games. Sheets (7-1) beat Houston for the second time in three starts this season, allowing seven hits and two walks."They've got a good hitting lineup," Sheets said, "but I think ours is the premier one in the league."Hart and Mike Cameron homered for the second straight game and Prince Fielder and Gabe Kapler also added home runs. The Brewers hit 10 in the series, reverting to last year's form, when they led the majors with 231 homers."What you saw last year," Cameron said, "we've got lots of guys who can do that."Darin Erstad, Miguel Tejada and Mark Loretta homered for the Astros, who've lost 11 of their last 14 games and five consecutive series. They've slipped under .500 for the first time since May 3 and Houston manager Cecil Cooper blames the pitching.The Astros have allowed 19 runs in the last two games."That won't cut it," Cooper said. "We've got to pitch better. We can't pitch that way."Tejada gave Houston a 1-0 lead in the first with a solo homer to right, his second in two games. Tejada leads all shortstops with 41 RBIs.The Brewers responded with five runs in the second off Astros starter Brian Moehler (3-3). Fielder led off with his 11th homer and one out later, Cameron lined a home run down the right-field line to put the Brewers up 2-1. Moehler gave up a single and walked Sheets, a .103 hitter, prompting a mound visit from Astros pitching coach Dewey Robinson.Whatever he said didn't work -- Hart hammered a 3-0 pitch into the Astros' bullpen to stretch Milwaukee's lead to 5-1. It was Hart's third homer in two games and 10th for the season.Sheets may have enjoyed the trip around the bases more than Hart did."Yeah, that was big," Sheets said. "I wanted to give it my best home run trot."Carlos Lee doubled in the second and scored on Michael Bourn's single to make it 5-2. Erstad led off the Astros third with a homer to right, his second of the season, to pull Houston within two.Sheets allowed only two hits after Erstad's homer."He kind of locked in about the third inning," said Milwaukee manager Ned Yost. "He was just kind of raring back and firing in the first two innings. He really started executing with his good stuff from about the middle of the third inning on."The Brewers loaded the bases for Russell Branyan with one out in the fifth. Branyan hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Craig Counsell for a 6-3 lead. Moehler walked Cameron to load the bases again and Cooper brought in Geoff Geary to relieve.Geary hit Bill Hall in the shoulder with a pitch, forcing in Ryan Braun to make it 7-3."We just can't do that," Cooper said, "and I know we're better than that."Sheets pitched out of trouble in the sixth and seventh, allowing a double to Lee and then a walk before retiring the next three in the sixth. In the seventh, Sheets gave up a single to Erstad but struck out Tejada and Lance Berkman to end the inning.Guillermo Mota started the eighth for Milwaukee and Bourn was safe on an infield single when Fielder dropped the throw from Hall, the second baseman. Loretta followed with his second home run of the season, pulling the Astros to 7-5.Kapler, pinch hitting for Mota, hit a solo homer in the ninth off Jose Valverde. Braun added an RBI single later in the inning.Salomon Torres gave up a run in the ninth, but got Lee on a grounder for the final out.
Cameron also hit a solo homer in Wednesday's 10-6 victory. He has hit five of his nine this season against Houston at Minute Maid Park. ... The teams combined for 17 home runs in the series. ... The Astros stole three bases, boosting their NL-leading total to 68. Houston stole only 65 bases during the entire 2007 season. ... Sheets has more career victories against Houston (12) than any other opponent. ... Brewers shortstop J.J. Hardy sat out with a left shoulder injury that he said was minor. Hardy will have the shoulder examined by doctors in Milwaukee on Friday.