Looking For a Spark

The Milwaukee Brewers opened May similar to way they started the season. They hope their latest victory can spark a run like they had a month ago, too.

The Brewers look to build off their latest comeback victory on Friday when they open a three-game series against the Houston Astros.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Houston -138 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 9 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 73% of bets for this game have been placed on Houston -138 (View MLB Bet Percentages). Bet this game.

Milwaukee (16-12) rallied for three runs in the ninth inning off closer Kerry Wood on Thursday to defeat Chicago 4-3. In their season opener against the Cubs on March 31, the Brewers scored three in the top of the ninth en route to a 4-3, 10-inning win, spurring a 6-1 start.

Victories, though, haven't come as frequently lately for Milwaukee, which is 5-6 since April 20.

The Brewers got a big lift from Ryan Braun on Thursday, as he hit a solo homer and drove in the winning runs with a two-run double in the ninth.

"This is the type of game that we wouldn't have necessarily won last year,'' he said. "I think having gone through the experience and knowing how to control our emotions in a situation like that helped.''

Braun finished the three-game Chicago series 7-for-13 with a home run, three doubles and seven RBIs, and is likely looking forward to playing Houston (13-16).

Last year's NL rookie of the year hit .354 (17-for-48) with five home runs and 14 RBIs in 12 games against the Astros in 2007 with Milwaukee winning nine of those contests. Overall, the Brewers went 13-5 against Houston in 2007, their highest single-season win total against any opponent since they moved to the NL in 1998.

While Braun is heating up, Prince Fielder was hitless in four at-bats on Thursday, and is just 4-for-24 (.167) with a homer in his last seven games.

Facing Roy Oswalt (2-3, 5.75 ERA) probably won't help Fielder end his slump. He is just 2-for-22 (.091) with no extra-base hits and five strikeouts lifetime against the right-hander.

The Astros ace, however, didn't have much luck versus the Brewers last season, going 0-2 with a 5.49 ERA in three starts. Oswalt, who went 9-1 with 1.91 ERA in 17 home starts in 2007, dropped his only start to Milwaukee at Minute Maid Park - his first loss to the Brewers in Houston since 2002.

On Saturday, Oswalt allowed three runs and five hits in six innings of a 4-3 loss at St. Louis, but did not factor in the decision. The right-hander is 2-0 with a 3.15 ERA in his last three starts after posting a 9.00 ERA in losing his first three outings.

The Astros are returning to Houston to open a six-game homestand following a disappointing finish to their eight-game road trip.

They lost to Arizona 8-7 on Wednesday after leading 6-2 through two innings. Houston has just one victory in its last five games after winning a season-high six in a row.

"Good teams find a way to win and we need to do a better job," Lance Berkman told the team's official Web site. "It's not a disastrous April, but it's not as good as it could have been."

Berkman, who ended the road trip in a 1-for-14 slump, is probably happy to return home, where he's batting .359 with four home runs and 13 RBIs in 11 games this season. Berkman was 11-for-33 with a homer and four RBIs in nine home games versus the Brewers in 2007.

Carlos Villanueva (1-2, 4.66) takes the mound for Milwaukee in the series opener seeking his first win in four weeks.

Villanueva allowed two runs and six hits in six innings of a 4-3 win over Florida on Saturday, leaving without a decision. The right-hander has given up two runs in each of his last two starts, but hasn't won since defeating San Francisco on April 4.

In his only career start against the Astros on Sept. 4, Villanueva yielded one run and five hits in six innings of a 5-3 win.

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