THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
HOUSTON — The bounce went just right for Canadian George Kottaras.
The 28-year-old from Toronto became the first major leaguer to hit for the cycle this season, aided by a good bounce on Minute Maid Park’s centre field hill, and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Houston Astros 8-2 Saturday night.
Kottaras needed a double in his last at bat to complete the cycle and he hit a drive to deep centre field. Kottaras likely could have stretched the hit to a triple, but the ball bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double.
"I was almost at second when the ball bounced out so that made it happen," Kottaras said. "I’ll take it for sure."
Kottaras hit a solo homer in the fourth inning off Bud Norris (6-9) to give Milwaukee a 2-0 lead and tripled in the sixth ahead of a two-run shot by Craig Counsell, his first of the year.
"I wasn’t trying for the cycle, just trying to play the right way and the way it’s meant to be played," Kottaras said. "It made me feel good inside. It was a great feeling."
Kottaras added an RBI single in the seventh and his doubled off David Carpenter in the ninth gave him the first cycle by a Brewers hitter since Jody Gerut on May 8, 2010.
Colorado slugger Carlos Gonzalez was the last major leaguer to hit for the cycle, on July 31 last season against the Chicago Cubs.
According to STATS LLC, two of the last three big league catchers to hit for the cycle did it for Milwaukee: Kottaras and Chad Moeller (2004). Bengie Molina also accomplished the feat for Texas on July 16 last year.
Kottaras finished 4 for 5 with two RBIs and scored twice. Prince Fielder drove in two runs with a grounder and a single as Milwaukee retained its 8 1/2-game lead over St. Louis in the NL Central.
"I kind of knew (cycle possibility) but I wasn’t just trying to hit a double, I was just going out to try to have a good at bat," Kottaras said. "It’s a crazy game you never know what you’re going to get."
Chris Narveson (10-6) allowed two runs and four hits over five innings in his first start for the Brewers since Aug. 22. He walked four and struck out four, working out of jams in the second and third.
Carlos Lee extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a two-run homer for Houston in the fifth. Norris gave up six runs, five earned, and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings. He struck out five.
"That team is in first place," Lee said. "They can hit. They can do a lot of things right. It isn’t easy. The last two games have been tough."
Narveson is trying to overcome a pair of injuries to his pitching hand. He went on the 15-day disabled list Aug. 9 after injuring himself with scissors while repairing his glove. He left his last start on Aug. 22 with an injury to the middle finger on his left hand.
Milwaukee managed an unearned run without getting a hit in the first inning.
Nyjer Morgan reached on Lee’s error at first base to start the game. Morgan stole second and went to third as Ryan Braun struck out but reached first on Norris’ wild pitch.
Fielder grounded out and Morgan scored for the early lead.
Kottaras made it 2-0 in the fourth with his fourth homer on a 92 mph fastball from Norris.
Fielder hit an RBI single with two outs in the fifth and Mark Kotsay had a run-scoring double to make it 4-0.
In the sixth, Kottaras tripled to left and Counsell’s homer made it 6-2.
Morgan prevented an extra-base hit by Jimmy Paredes when he crashed into the wall to make a catch in the second inning. Narveson quickly loaded the bases, however, by yielding a single to Jason Michaels and walks to Clint Barmes and Carlos Corporan.
Norris ended the threat by hitting into a double play.
"It’s tough when you give a first place team that can swing a couple bad breaks there for us with a five-out inning or a four-out inning," Norris said. "It’s tough, but I’m still trying to make my pitches and pick myself up from that inning."
NOTES: Lee has three of his team-high 14 homers this season off Narveson. … Norris made his career-high 28th start. He already set personal bests for strikeouts and innings pitched. … Houston lost its 92nd game and moved closer to its first 100-loss season.