MILWAUKEE (AP) — Marco Estrada struck out 11 in eight shutout innings, Corey Hart homered twice and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Houston Astros 9-5 on Saturday night.
The Brewers began the day barely in the playoff race, a year they reached the NL championship series. Any Milwaukee loss or St. Louis win would mean elimination.
Hart drove in four runs to back Estrada (5-7), who won for the third time in four starts. The right-hander allowed only four singles and a walk after giving up six earned runs in just four innings against Washington in his last outing.
Houston hit three home runs in the ninth to score five times off reliever Livan Hernandez. Fernando Martinez and Brian Bogusevic hit two-run homers and Tyler Greene added a solo shot.
Dallas Keuchel (3-8) was coming off three consecutive solid outings, but was battered for seven runs in just 2 1-3 innings. Hart and Aramis Ramirez hit consecutive home runs in the second inning for a 2-0 lead. Hart added a three-run homer, his 30th, in the third to make it 7-0.
Hart was in a 4-for-28 slump after missing eight games with plantar fascitis in his left foot, but had little trouble against Keuchel. He grimaced while jogging the bases after his first home run, but remained in the game and hit another.
Ramirez and Norichika Aoki each had three hits while Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez had two hits apiece.
Keuchel had given up only two runs in 16 1-3 innings over his first three September starts. The left-hander retired the side in order in the first, but allowed consecutive home runs to Ramirez, his 27th, and Hart in the second.
Jonathan Lucroy followed with a single, Jean Segura walked and Estrada's sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third with two outs. Aoki then hit a bloop single to center, scoring both runners for a 4-0 lead.
Braun and Ramirez each singled to open the third and Hart connected.
Houston's best threat against Estrada came in the fourth when the first two batters singled. Scott Moore was then picked off second by Estrada, Fernando Martinez struck out and Jason Castro grounded out to end the inning.
The victory ensured the Brewers (81-77) will finish with at least a .500 record a year after going 96-66 and winning the NL Central. Milwaukee, though, was 54-66 on Aug. 19 and has gone 27-11 since.