Houser gets sick on Miller Park mound ... again

Right-hander goes on to strike out career-high 10 in 6 innings

August 11th, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- is a promising young hurler for the Brewers.

And he can pitch a little bit, too.

The 26-year-old right-hander rallied after getting sick on the field before the fourth batter of the game and chucked the best game of his career on Saturday at Miller Park, setting a career high with 10 strikeouts while holding the Rangers to one run over six innings of the Brewers’ 3-2 win, their fifth straight.

“I have no idea,” Houser said of losing his lunch, “but if I keep pitching like that, I'll take it every time.”

The win puts Milwaukee 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Cubs in the National League Central.

Houser was able to laugh it off last June after he became physically ill in front of a crowd of 40,000-plus at Miller Park, an unfortunate event that he reprised Saturday in front of 41,903 more fans during a scoreless first inning. Houser had just kicked a comebacker for an error when he squatted behind the mound and became ill once again.

After a visit from the team’s medical staff and a sip of water, and a quick clean-up job by a member of the grounds crew, Houser resumed pitching and completed the inning.

“I had to take a step back a little bit at first,” said Brewers second baseman Keston Hiura, who hit his 14th home run in the third inning. “But I knew once it happened, he was ready to go.”

Said Houser: “Probably just sick with myself for not making that play.”

It was the start of a brilliant performance in which Houser held Texas to three hits and one walk. He struck out seven batters before allowing his first hit, which came on Logan Forsythe’s infield single in the fifth inning. Danny Santana homered off Houser with one out in the sixth to cut into Milwaukee’s 3-0 lead, but still, no Brewers outfielder had touched a baseball in the game. That finally changed when right fielder Trent Grisham picked up Rougned Odor’s double two batters later. Houser responded by striking out Nomar Mazara to end the inning before Junior Guerra, Drew Pomeranz, Alex Claudio and Matt Albers covered the final nine outs.

“We are not doing a whole lot offensively, and he gained confidence as he got going,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said of Houser. “He has good stuff, we knew that. He just hasn’t been executing up to this point. Once he got some confidence against us, you could see his confidence going up and up as every inning went by.”

“Look, being a Major League starter is not easy,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “He is getting so much feedback every time he is going out there. He’s learning a lot. He’s learning about his stuff. He’s learning how hitters are reacting to his stuff, what to do to left-handers, to right-handers. And with that, you need some success and some positive feedback. Tonight’s a night he feels like, to me, ‘Hey, I execute my stuff and I can get all the hitters out.’ That’s what he did.”

It was a breakthrough performance for Houser, who entered the night 0-5 with a 6.82 ERA in eight career starts, all coming this season. He is needed in the rotation at the moment with Brewers starters Brandon Woodruff, Jhoulys Chacin and Zach Davies all on the 10-day injured list.

Houser’s 10 strikeouts were a career best in professional baseball; he once struck out nine batters in a Double-A game in May 2016. But never in the Minor Leagues, or Little League, or any other league, did he get ill on the field before his two bouts in the big leagues.

“I felt good. I didn't feel sick at all,” Houser said. “It was kind of like last time, it just snuck up on me. Last year and today are the only times it's happened. It's kind of weird.”

Houser endured the same thing last season on June 17, when he got sick twice during an inning of work against the Phillies. The blame then went to a long day of travel that started at 5 a.m. following a callup from Triple-A, which left Houser unable to properly eat on a day that had an 87-degree game-time temperature.

Houser shrugged it off, comparing the moment to the 1999 film "Any Given Sunday” when Jamie Foxx’s character throws up in the huddle.

“I think it’s one of those things where he gets amped up at the start of the game,” Counsell said. “You know, you’ve got energy, you’ve got some nerves, you’ve got butterflies. And it all came out at once.”

After a quick cleanup, it was game on.

“We all saw the best out of Houser tonight,” Hiura said. “Honestly, I felt like he was striking out every single batter when we were out on the field. He really competed on the mound today, regardless of what happened early on.”