"Shoot, man, that was a rough stretch," said Astros closer Brett Myers, who nailed down his 18th save in 20 attempts. "That was a tough nine days, and it just starts to wear on you."
What was even more encouraging to Mills was how well the Astros played. They got a solid starting performance from Wandy Rodriguez, albeit cut short, and they bashed out 13 hits, ran with aggression on the bases and made a few nice defensive plays.
It also didn't hurt that Brewers starting pitcher Zack Greinke, who was 4-0 with a 2.00 ERA in his four previous starts against Houston, was ejected from the game after only four pitches.
"It was obviously huge, but then I feel like that just swung momentum in our direction," outfielder J.D. Martinez said.
Greinke (9-3), who joined Rodriguez in pitching in front of a bevy of scouts possibly interested in acquiring them via trade, gave up a triple to Jordan Schafer to start the game and then was late covering first on a grounder to the right side of the infield by Jose Altuve, who appeared to reach the bag at the same instant as Greinke.
When Altuve was called safe, a frustrated Greinke spiked the ball and was immediately ejected by first-base umpire Sam Holbrook, despite his repeated pleas of "I'm mad at myself! I'm mad at myself!" Brewers manager Ron Roenicke came out to argue and was also ejected.
"I got real mad at myself, because it's a mental mistake," Greinke said. "I think it's the first time I've not covered first on a ball hit to that side. So I was just really mad with myself."
Roenicke didn't rule out bringing Greinke back to pitch on Sunday.
"We're not positive which way we're going to go," he said.
Martinez tied a career high by getting three hits, and Altuve had his 31st multi-hit game of the season by going 3-for-4 with a walk and an RBI. Altuve combined with Schafer to create havoc at the top two spots in the batting order. They combined to go 5-for-8 with two runs scored and two stolen bases.
"If we can get on base and cause some havoc there, there's a bunch of ways we can score runs," Schafer said. "Any time we can score runs early and put pressure on the other team, it's only going to help us."
Schafer's big day came only a few days after he was removed from a game in Pittsburgh by Mills for "behavioral reasons" and throwing to the wrong base. On Saturday, Schafer covered a lot of ground on the bases and in center field, where he made two long running catches in the fifth.
When asked if it was his best game in a while, Schafer smiled.
"In a while? Yeah, in a long while," he said. "We got off to a good start, and it helps when you get Greinke out of there after four pitches. He's pretty good. We swung alright and Wandy kept us in the game there. We finally got a win."
Rodriguez won for the first time since June 14 by allowing four hits and two runs -- both unearned -- in 5 1/3 innings. He had a shutout through five innings before the Brewers scored two unearned runs in the sixth on two errors by Scott Moore, a passed ball and a wild pitch. They only had one hit in the inning.
"He was close to 100 pitches and I just felt like this time, with the inning the way it was going, we better match up to get out of the inning and not let them build any further," said Mills, who used six relievers. "He did a great job of battling throughout and getting those ground balls when he needed them."
Moore homered to lead off the second to make it 2-0, and Jed Lowrie had an RBI double to score Martinez and later in the third scored on the first of Jason Castro's two sacrifice flies to push the lead to 4-0. Schafer scored on a throwing error in the fourth, and Castro added a sac fly in the fifth.
Moore made a pair of errors in the seventh with Rodriguez on the mound, including dropping a potential double-play grounder with the bases loaded that led two unearned runs.
"Instead of just making sure I got one, I thought about throwing to first to get two," Moore said. "I dropped it and it was embarrassing. I'd like to forget about it and move on."