Houser was coming off a career-high 10 strikeout performance in a 5-4 win against the Marlins on May 8. He had been consistent so far this season, and entered Friday’s outing with a 3.44 ERA through 36 2/3 innings pitched. However, this was not the performance the Brewers were expecting or hoping to start this series, as Houser labored through three innings, walking five batters and allowing two runs.
“Yeah, you know, I was kind of laughing about it as I came off because I had my best outing my last outing," Houser said. "It was really something to build off and keep that momentum, but then I come out tonight and have my worst outing of the year so far. It’s definitely weird but that’s baseball for you. It’s going to take you for a ride up and down and throw you some curveballs and all kinds of stuff. You just have to stay positive, keep working and keep going forward.”
A bright spot for the Brewers was the play of Luis Urías, who had a home run, an RBI single and an impressive leaping catch to save a base hit off the bat of Austin Riley.
In the bottom of the second, the Brewers jumped out to a 1-0 lead thanks to an RBI single from Urías, who also almost sparked a ninth-inning comeback with a solo homer. Manny Piña followed Urías up with a home run of his own to cut the Braves’ lead to the final margin.
The Brewers’ back-to-back homers in the ninth were their first since April 27, when Houser notched his first career homer followed by a shot from Tyrone Taylor. This is the third time the Brewers have gone back to back this season, matching their season total from 2020.
“Look, we’ve had some frustrating days and nights, offensively," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "Today was one where we hit a bunch of balls to the warning track, essentially. We hit them hard. The timing of our offense is just not there as far as sequencing the hits. That’s really how we won a bunch of games early."
Despite the early 1-0 lead, the Brewers were unable to put together quality at-bats and could not capitalize with runners on. Milwaukee currently ranks 28th in the Majors with a .213 batting average.
Houser’s lack of control in the third inning led to a two-run rally to give the Braves a 2-1 lead. He gave up three walks and hit William Contreras with a pitch before escaping the inning with an Ender Inciarte strikeout.
“The two-seamer, he didn’t command it too much like he did last time in Miami," Piña said. "Tonight, the two-seamer wasn’t there. I think it was more the rhythm -- he didn’t have the rhythm. When he doesn’t command his pitch, it’s tough when he’s got to use his breaking ball.”
Houser threw 65 pitches with only 32 strikes, making It clear that command was the problem. He finished with two hits and two runs allowed -- along with those five walks -- before being replaced by Eric Lauer to open the fourth.
“The velocity was good. The pitches were fairly close. They weren’t big misses or anything like that. But he was having trouble throwing strikes,” Counsell said. “He definitely didn’t look like he has the last couple starts. I didn’t like what I saw completely, so that was the reason for the early exit.”
In the top of the fifth, the Braves took control when Marcell Ozuna and Ozzie Albies hit back-to-back homers to center field. This gave the Braves their first back-to-back homers of the season and gave Atlanta a 4-1 edge.
The Brewers are ranked near the bottom of the NL in almost every offensive category, and the club and its fans are eagerly awaiting the return of 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich, who hasn’t played since May 3 as he battles a lingering back injury. Yelich is currently on a rehab assignment with the team's Triple-A affiliate, the Nashville Sounds. He had two at-bats on Friday night, going 0-for-2.