Wolf strong again, hawk watches Brewers top Astros
MILWAUKEE – Randy Wolf remembers all the stray cats lurking in the old Astrodome in Houston and Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. Those were harmless encounters with animals compared with watching a wayward hawk hunt inside Miller Park.
Wolf allowed four hits over eight sharp innings and the Milwaukee Brewers, with a bird of prey perched nearby, beat the Houston Astros 4-1 on Sunday.
"The hawk buzzed my tower," said Wolf, who was in complete control for a third straight start.
Rickie Weeks homered in his return after missing one game with a sprained left pinkie finger and Brandon Boggs also connected. Prince Fielder tripled for his NL-leading 21st RBI in the third inning while the bird settled in the outfield.
The roof at Miller Park was closed, but that didn't stop the small hawk from grabbing everyone's attention.
It attacked another bird in center field in the top of the third, then landed in shallow right field to watch the bottom of the half with Astros right fielder Hunter Pence giving it plenty of distance.
"Whatever that was, a pigeon, it looked scared. It looked at me like, why is the roof closed? I can't get out of here," Wolf said.
Someone even created a Twitter account for the bird during the game. The only person it was following — or hawking — on the social media site during the game was Pence.
"I thought it was going to attack us," Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said.
Astros second baseman Bill Hall was closer during the half-inning the bird was in the field of play.
"He was on the outfield grass, hanging out. Wasn't a lot of action (his direction) during the time he was out there," Hall said. "I don't know when he got up and flew away. Obviously, he was having a good time out there."
Wolf (3-2) allowed four hits, two of them to Astros pitcher Wandy Rodriguez (1-3). J.R. Towles homered with two outs in the Houston eighth — it was the first run Wolf had allowed since April 8 against Chicago.
John Axford converted his fourth save as Milwaukee won its third straight home series. He worked around a one-out single on his bobblehead day as Milwaukee improved to 7-3 at home this season.
"Outside the windows, there was bigger hawk outside circling around," said Axford, who joked that he didn't mind that the bird stole his day in the spotlight. "We were wondering if it was a mom or a dad trying to get in on the action."
Wolf followed up on strong starts at Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, where he outpitched reigning NL Cy Young winner Roy Halladay, by using a mix of fastballs in the high 80s mph and a breaking ball that dipped into the low 60s against the Astros.
"That's when he does good, that's what he does," catcher Wil Nieves said. "He played with the speed and kept the hitters off-balanced. That's what he did today. He was hitting both corners of the plate and just keeping the ball down."
His only hint of trouble came with two outs in the third when Rodriguez and Jason Bourgeois hit consecutive singles. Wolf got Angel Sanchez to pop out to center field to end the threat.
The bird then landed and certainly had the best perch for the Brewers' three-run third.
Weeks led off with a homer to make it 2-0 and Carlos Gomez singled and stole second.
After Ryan Braun struck out, Fielder tripled for the ninth time in his career when left fielder Jason Michaels made an ill-advised diving attempt at a catch. Casey McGehee followed with a run-scoring single that gave Milwaukee a 4-0 lead.
The whole time the hawk remained stationary in right field, finally flying away when first base umpire Angel Hernandez began to approach it after the third. After the game, the Brewers opened the outfield panels of the park, which generally allows birds to get out — and in — the retractable roof stadium.
Rodriguez went seven innings, allowing 10 hits and striking out nine. He got out of a bases-loaded jam with one out in the fifth, but was gone before the Astros finally broke through against Wolf.
"After the third inning, he put up a bunch of zeros," Houston manager Brad Mills said. "The one thing about Wandy so far this season, he struggled the first couple of innings. Then he's been able to settle down and throw the ball pretty well. That was exactly what he was able to do today."
NOTES: Brewers RHP Zack Greinke (rib) pitched 2 2-3 innings, giving up two runs and a walk with two strikeouts in a rehab start Sunday at Triple-A Nashville. ... Braun has reached base safely in all 21 games this season. ... Astros INF Clint Barmes (broken left hand) will begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Oklahoma City on Monday, playing two games there before joining Double-A Corpus Christi on Wednesday. ... Brewers RF Corey Hart (oblique) plans to play the entire game at Triple-A Nashville on Monday. If all of his at-bats go well, the team could call him up Tuesday. Otherwise, he's expected to return to Milwaukee on Wednesday.