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HOU@MIL: Aramis tallies three hits, drives in four

MILWAUKEE -- Manager Ron Roenicke isn't quite ready to call this season a lost cause. With a little more than a third of the season yet to play, he said before Tuesday's game that no matter how far back his team is in the National League Central, "We're going to play to try to still win as many games as we can."

A few hours later, Milwaukee came out like a team that believes it still has something to play for in a 10-1 win over Houston at Miller Park. And though most of the talk before the game centered on the young players Milwaukee has brought in, it was the veteran pieces already in place doing most of the damage.

Corey Hart and Aramis Ramirez led the charge, each delivering a three-run homer, and the Brewers jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. The duo combined for five hits and seven RBIs on a night that saw virtually everything go right for the Crew. And after playing in five one-run games since July 22, the Brewers welcomed such a night with open arms.

"We need two weeks like that," Ramirez said. "We've played in a lot of close games lately, and we've blown some big leads late."

Tuesday's lead, however, was never in danger.

Ramirez started the scoring in the bottom of the first when he drove home leadoff man Norichika Aoki with a single. Two innings later he connected on his 13th home run of the season. Hart hit his 20th in the bottom of the fifth.

Ramirez's big game capped what was a blistering-hot month. The veteran third baseman finished July with 21 RBIs, 12 doubles and a .373 batting average. His 35 doubles on the season -- his first in Milwaukee -- are the second most in the NL.

"He's what we wanted when we knew we needed a No. 4 hitter to replace [departed free agent Prince Fielder]," Roenicke said. "He was a guy we thought could do the job, and he's shown that he can do the job."

One of the few Milwaukee runs not driven in by Ramirez or Hart came courtesy of starter Yovani Gallardo. With runners on first and third, Gallardo executed the Brewers' Major League-leading 10th successful squeeze.

That play, though, turned out to be the least important of Gallardo's contributions.

In seven innings of work, Gallardo had little trouble with the Astros' lineup, giving up just three hits and one earned run while striking out five. The one run came on a solo shot in the third inning, and it proved to be a rare mistake for Gallardo.

Roenicke said that Gallardo's stuff was great all night but that his command really looked strong starting in the third inning, leading to a one-walk performance. Meanwhile, the Brewers built their lead thanks in large part to six walks by Houston starter Dallas Keuchel.

"[Gallardo] spotted the ball, and he was ahead in the count," said Astros catcher Chris Snyder, who delivered his team's only run. "You've got two sides of the spectrum out there -- they're in hitter's counts, and the guy we're facing is constantly in a good pitcher's count. The outcome of the game tells the tale."

One of just two pitchers left from Milwaukee's Opening Day rotation, the 26-year-old right-hander lobbied to come back out for the eighth inning. Roenicke debated letting him but didn't want Gallardo's pitch count, which stopped at 101, to get too high. Still, Gallardo successfully limited the amount of work needed from a bullpen that entered the game with the same amount of saves (21) as blown saves.

"We all know it's been tough," Gallardo said about the bullpen's struggles. "But as far as for myself, I always try to go out there and get as deep as I can and give those guys a rest. Any time you're able to get a day off, especially in the 'pen, it's a good thing."

Jim Henderson and Francisco Rodriguez successfully closed out the game, but not without a little drama.

Roenicke and bench coach Jerry Narron were ejected in the ninth inning after arguing a called ball with plate umpire Brian Knight. Even the hitter -- Houston's Justin Maxwell -- thought it was strike three, judging by his turn toward the dugout, but Knight's call was ball two. He called Rodriguez's next pitch a strike, and Maxwell was out.

Although he was unable to see the end of the game, Roenicke was happy to finally have a relatively clean performance out of the bullpen.

"It was nice to see a couple of relievers come in and throw the ball well," Roenicke said. "I like the way [Henderson] threw the ball. And Frankie, to have him come in and throw a good inning, that was good to see."

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