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Brewers 2, Cubs 1

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CHICAGO (AP)

George Kottaras had the type of afternoon backups dream about.

Kottaras hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning, and Yovani Gallardo outdueled Ryan Dempster as the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Chicago Cubs 2-1 Wednesday for their third straight win in the four-game series.

Backed by Starlin Castro's first-inning sacrifice fly that followed David DeJesus' double, Dempster (0-1) had a three-hit shutout before Mat Gamel doubled leading off the seventh. Kottaras followed with his second homer this season.

''It was down and in,'' Kottaras said of the slider, ''and I was just trying to stay through the middle, wasn't trying to hit a home run. Just put a good swing on it, and off it went.''

Milwaukee gave Ryan Braun, Corey Hart and regular catcher Jonathan Lucroy the day off.

Gallardo (1-1) didn't need much offense. He allowed five hits in seven innings, struck out six and walked two, getting 11 ground-ball outs.

It was a welcomed rebound from an opening-day start in which the 26-year-old right-hander allowed six runs in 3 2-3 innings against World Series champion St. Louis.

''I was a little more aggressive with the fastball down in the strike zone, moving it around in and out,'' Gallardo said. ''The slider was the best slider I've had in a while. I was able to command it and get ground balls whenever I needed them.''

Gallardo allowed singles by Ian Stewart and Bryan LaHair starting the seventh, but struck out Geovany Soto and Marlon Byrd and inducing an inning-ending groundout from pinch-hitter Blake DeWitt.

''Yovani got better as the game went on,'' Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. ''I thought his last inning was his best inning with his fastball. He had good rhythm all game.''

Francisco Rodriguez worked around a pair of walks in the eighth, and John Axford pitched a one-hit ninth for his second save, dropping the last-place Cubs to a 1-5 start.

Dempster, who fell to 15-6 against Milwaukee, allowed two runs, five hits and three walks in 6 2-3 innings with five strikeouts.

''Gallardo did a good job of pitching today,'' Dempster said. ''I knew today it was going to be tough to win a game. I'm kind of upset with myself because we have a chance to win that game if I don't give up that home run.''

Making his first big league start, Brewers leadoff hitter Norichika Aoki reached on a single and a walk, seeing 29 pitches over four plate appearances. Aoki was a three-time batting champion and six-time Gold Glove winner during seven seasons with Yakult in Japan's Central League.

''He does a really nice job battling,'' Roenicke said. ''He gets on base for you, he's going to be a nice guy to have with us this year.''

NOTES: Roenicke said Braun and Lucroy had rib tightness that they could have played through. ... Dempster struck out Kottaras in the fifth inning to become the 12th pitcher to strike out 1,000 for the Cubs. ... Chicago RHP Kerry Wood struck out the side in the eighth after two outing in which he combined to allow three earned run and three walks in one innings. ... Chicago's Matt Garza looks for his first win of the season in Thursday's series finale against Zack Greinke, who threw seven shutout innings vs. St. Louis in his season debut. Garza was 2-1 with a 4.35 ERA against Milwaukee last year.

Tagged: Brewers, Cubs, Ryan Dempster, Yovani Gallardo, George Kottaras, Ryan Braun

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