MILWAUKEE -- As he toed the rubber in the first inning, he felt nervous, jittery, even scared.
Not rookie Wandy Rodriguez, ace Ben Sheets.
Sheets (1-4) hadn't pitched since a loss at Houston on April 20 because of an inner ear inflammation called vestibular neuritis that left him dizzy and disoriented, but he showed no ill effects from his 38-day stint on the disabled list. He allowed four runs -- one earned -- and two hits with two walks and nine strikeouts in five innings.
The Astros won for just the fourth time in 26 road games and Rodriguez (1-1) won in his second major league start, thanks to an error on Milwaukee second baseman Junior Spivey that led to a four-run first inning and an uncharacteristically bad outing by the Brewers' bullpen.
Sheets' only mistake was a high fastball that Morgan Ensberg hit over the center field wall for a three-run homer.
"Getting Wandy a little cushion there in the first inning always helps," Houston's Adam Everett said. "Getting four runs off Ben Sheets, that's huge. He's one of the best in the game."
"I hadn't pitched in a big league game in six weeks, so you're not going to be Cy Young out there," Sheets said. "I had a lot of nerves out there tonight. I guess some of it was probably being a little bit scared."
Rodriguez had his own butterflies.
After making his major league debut last week at Wrigley Field following seven seasons in the minors, he allowed four runs and nine hits through six innings against Milwaukee. The left-hander struck out five.
Brad Lidge struck out two of three batters in the ninth for his ninth save in 11 tries.
Sheets was sharp after his shaky start, retiring 12 straight batters before walking the last hitter he faced, Orlando Palmeiro, who was promptly thrown out trying to steal second base.
"I was too foggy to realize stuff like that," Sheets said of his final four hitless frames.
After settling down, however, "it felt like I'd been pitching for the last six weeks," Sheets said.
After Palmeiro led off the game with a walk, Spivey booted Todd Self's grounder, setting up Lance Berkman's RBI single. Ensberg followed with his 10th homer, a three-run shot to center that made it 4-0 - more runs than the Brewers had allowed in their previous four games combined.
The Brewers got one back in their half on Geoff Jenkins' RBI single and another in the fourth when they started the inning with four straight singles, including Bill Hall's run-scoring hit to left. But the rally stalled when Spivey lined out to third on a 2-0 pitch and light-hitting Chad Moeller - Sheets' personal catcher who was hitting just .107 -- grounded softly into an inning-ending double play.
Pinch-hitting for Sheets -- who hasn't won since opening day -- Wes Helms led off the fifth with a double and scored on Brady Clark's double to make it 4-3, but the Astros responded with a five-run sixth when Mike Lamb hit a two-run double off Jorge De La Rosa and Everett hit a three-run homer off Matt Wise.
Spivey hit his fourth homer in the sixth and Carlos Lee hit his 12th in the eighth off Ezequiel Astacio, tying the club record for most home runs in May with nine. Hall also homered off Astacio that inning, making it 9-6.
"Three-run homers will do marvelous things for you," said Astros manager Phil Garner, whose club had been hitting .208 and averaging just 2.5 runs on the road. "Bottom line was big hits at the right time for us."
And the wrong time for Sheets.
Still, he was glad to be back in the rotation.
"My body felt good. My pitches felt crisp. It just felt good to be out there," Sheets said. "It stinks to freaking lose, though."
Brewers 3B Jeff Cirillo left in the seventh with a back strain. ... The nine runs were the most the Brewers had allowed this season. ... With Sheets returning to the rotation, RHP Gary Glover was bumped to the bullpen despite a solid start Wednesday night in which he allowed no earned runs and three hits in six innings against Colorado. Glover (3-3) wasn't as consistent as RHP Wes Obermueller, who pitched so well in place of Sheets that he was named the starter for Tuesday night's game against the Padres.