MILWAUKEE -- Adrian Houser wasn’t the answer to the Brewers’ starting-pitching problem in a 4-2 loss to the Mariners on Wednesday at Miller Park.
Mike Moustakas bolstered his All-Star candidacy by hitting his 23rd home run and Ben Gamel raced around the bases for an inside-the-park homer against his former team, but only after Houser had put the Brewers in a 3-0 hole after laboring through two long innings in his return to the rotation. The 26-year-old yielded as many earned runs -- three -- in those two innings against the Mariners as he’d allowed in 25 2/3 innings of lights-out relief this season, many in high-leverage spots.
But back in the rotation, Houser allowed four hits and three walks and boosted the ERA of Brewers starters in June to 6.81.
“That’s not who he is,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “He’s going to have better outings.”
The Brewers need better outings, and quickly. They have lost nine of the last 12 games and 10 of 14 going into Thursday’s series finale, which is Game No. 81 and the mathematical midpoint of the regular season.
How will they break out of it?
“Together,” Houser said. “One guy goes out there and gets the job done, and I think it steamrolls kind of like that.”
Chase Anderson will try to be that guy Thursday, when the Brewers seek to avoid getting swept. But he has made it past the fifth inning just once in his first nine starts.
“I look back to when we pitched well this season, and if we’ve watched one guy pitch really well it’s probably ‘Woody’ [Brandon Woodruff],” Anderson said. “You see him pitch and you want to replicate that and be better than him. It’s a healthy competition you want to create. I look back at ‘17, with Jimmy [Nelson] and I. He wanted to outdo me, I wanted to outdo him. That’s what good starting rotations do.”
Houser will get at least one more start before the All-Star break and maybe two, since veteran left-hander Gio Gonzalez had a setback in his comeback from a shoulder issue and won’t be ready until the second half.
“Very disappointing. They wanted me to start tonight and I just didn’t get the job done,” said Houser, who was making his third start this season. “I wasn’t able to attack how I wanted to attack and was struggling with some pitches and didn’t execute some stuff, and they took advantage of it. …
“I think I was just a little too amped up tonight for some reason, and I was moving too fast. I couldn’t slow myself down.”
Amped up because he was starting the game? Yes, Houser said.
“I have to get over that and get used to it,” he said.
The Brewers faced a deficit two batters into the game, after Mallex Smith led off with a triple and scored on J.P Crawford’s double in what became a two-run inning. In the second, Crawford delivered a two-out RBI triple to extend the lead to 3-0.
“He didn’t have command of his fastball tonight from the get-go, and really throughout the two innings that he threw,” Counsell said. “He was unable to rein it in. It was the same miss -- up and away to the lefty. … That was basically it. That forced him to throw a bunch of pitches to get through it. We were thinking of 60-70 pitches, and he kind of ate them up right away.”
Freddy Peralta followed with four scoreless innings, but the early runs were enough for the Mariners, who followed right-handed “opener” Matt Carasiti with left-hander Wade LeBlanc and saw that duo keep the Brewers off the board until Moustakas’ home run leading off the sixth and Gamel’s two batters later helped the Brewers get within a run at 3-2.
“We both need to help each other out,” said Gamel, referring to the offense and pitching. “We just have to put our best foot down tomorrow. We all have high expectations and big aspirations, and when things aren’t going our way, we have to fix the ship. We have to figure it out.”
What will that take?
“Keep competing,” Gamel said.