Now Houston has its first two-game winning streak since the final week of June, and sits a Sunday win away from sweeping a series for the first time since the third week of May.
"It's tough to take any loss, but when you lose to one of the last place teams in the [National League] Central, it makes it even worse," said Brewers starter Marco Estrada, who lasted only four innings. "They've been close games, but today was just terrible. I didn't give the team a chance to win."
Estrada was long gone by the time the game was decided, but shouldered the blame for allowing four Astros runs, and six of Houston's 12 hits, within the first three innings.
"I just felt completely out of whack out there," Estrada said. "That's the worst I've felt all year. I let a bad team beat me."
Actually, the Astros beat Brewers reliever Jim Henderson, the closest thing Milwaukee has to a closer at the moment and a rare bullpen bright spot. He inherited a 5-5 tie in the ninth inning after the Brewers rallied against Houston closer Wilton Lopez, getting going on Rickie Weeks' double and scoring the tying run on rookie shortstop Jean Segura's RBI groundout.
Henderson struck out the side on 13 pitches in the ninth but did not record an out in the bottom of the 10th. Jose Altuve reached on an infield single before Henderson walked the next two batters -- both of whom showed bunt earlier in those plate appearances -- for Scott Moore, who poked a winning single to left field.
It marked the 22nd time an opponent has beaten the Brewers in their last at-bat -- for comparison, Milwaukee has only 13 such wins -- and the ninth time the Brewers have lost in walk-off fashion on the road.
"[Henderson] did his job the first inning, we put him back out there. He's not going to be perfect all the time," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said.
Henderson blamed himself for falling behind Marwin Gonzalez and Steve Pearce, the two batters who walked. Free passes have doomed Brewers relievers all season, including Friday, when the Astros' winning rally against John Axford in the ninth inning began with a walk.
"Again, the walks," Roenicke said. "They hurt."
For Henderson, Moore was a familiar foe.
"I know Scott Moore from playing against him for a couple of years, and he's got a quality eye at the plate," Henderson said. "I had to come at him, and he knows that, too. I threw a sinker away there, tried to get a ground ball, and he reached out and touched it."
Said Moore: "I was just trying to get a pitch out over the plate to put the barrel on. If I could get the ball in the outfield, there was a good chance that we would be able to score."
Altuve finished with three hits and three runs scored, and Pearce had three hits and three RBIs. For the Brewers, right fielder Norichika Aoki had two hits including a tying, two-run double in the fifth inning, but Estrada only made it through the fourth and the Brewers' first reliever of the night, Livan Hernandez, surrendered a go-ahead home run in the fifth.
Before winning the first two games of their current series against the Brewers, the Astros had not won consecutive games since June 26-27, and had lost 24 of 27 games since the All-Star break and 34 of their last 38 games overall.
Now the Brewers need a win in Sunday's series finale behind Yovani Gallardo to avoid being victims of the first Astros sweep since Houston took three games from the Cubs at Wrigley Field from May 21-23. That was a different Astros team. Starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez won that series finale, relievers Brandon Lyon and Brett Myers worked the final two innings and Carlos Lee and Chris Johnson combined to score four of the Astros' five runs. All of those players have since been traded as part of Houston's rebuilding effort.
The Brewers played the final three and a half innings Saturday without starting center fielder Carlos Gomez, who was ejected for arguing a called third strike in the seventh inning that left the bases loaded.
Gomez, who was already upset about calls in his first two at-bats, disagreed immediately with Gary Darling's call on a low, inside pitch, and was ejected for the first time in his career.
Gomez watched the replay after the game and insisted again, "That's a ball."
"If that is a first pitch, I'm taking," Gomez said. "But for [a pitch to] strike me out with the bases loaded? No way. You have your limit. I never got thrown out in my career, but that guy, I had to tell him something. ...
"For six years, I never tell nothing bad to the umpires, I always respect that they always can make a mistake. But sometimes you have to explode."