Mike Cameron knew the ball had beaten him to the plate.
“You still have to make the tag. I was safe,” he said.
Cameron slid under catcher Wil Nieves for the go-ahead run in the seventh and Yovani Gallardo showed a flash of emotion striking out 11 in seven innings, lifting the Brewers to a 7-3 victory over the Washington Nationals on Thursday.
Cameron’s play helped Milwaukee salvage a split and win consecutive games for the first time this month after a miserable 8-16 start to July.
“I was pretty shocked,” Nationals starter J.D. Martin said. “I know the ball beat him there so I just kind of figured he was out.”
But plate umpire Joe West, working his 4,000th game, called Cameron safe because Nieves’ tag wasn’t low enough. Nieves didn’t like the call, jumping around in disbelief, but said after the game that West was correct.
“I just tagged him too high. I should’ve blocked the plate,” he said. “It’s one of those plays you’ve got to make sure won’t happen again. You see the replay and it was clear that he got in there.”
Prince Fielder hit his 25th homer and Craig Counsell added a homer and three RBIs to extend his hitting streak to 12 for the Brewers, who now will go on a nine-game road trip that starts in San Diego.
“During the season, you just kind of put your head down and keep going,” Counsell said.
The reality is it’ll be just as tough on the road with stops in Los Angeles and Houston. After the game, Jeff Suppan (oblique) joined Dave Bush (triceps) on the disabled list for an already beleaguered starting rotation and slumping third baseman Bill Hall accepted an assignment to Triple-A Nashville.
No corresponding roster moves were announced and general manager Doug Melvin has been actively seeking pitching help before Friday’s trade deadline.
“We’ll patch it together,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “It will be a challenge for us.”
Gallardo (10-7) has been the one stabilizing presence for the Brewers, who came into the month with a two-game lead in the NL Central and needed to rally behind their promising young right-hander.
He struck out a batter in every inning but one, but allowed a three-run homer to Ryan Zimmerman in the fourth that made it 3-2. Fielder answered with a solo shot in the bottom of the inning to tie it.
“After I gave up the lead with the three-run home run, I just said to myself, ‘We’ve got a good team, we’re going to turn around and put some runs up on the board,”‘ Gallardo said.
Cameron started the seventh with a double off Martin (0-2) and advanced to third on Casey McGehee‘s single. Jason Kendall followed with a grounder to third and Zimmerman made an accurate throw, but Nieves couldn’t make the timely tag.
Nieves was upset, but cooled down quickly after West earlier tossed Nationals manager Jim Riggleman for arguing.
“The disappointment they feel after that ballgame I think is a great thing. They’re not just saying ‘Ah it’s another loss,”‘ said Riggleman, now 6-9 since taking over at the All-Star break for Manny Acta. “There’s a lot of disappointment in there that we didn’t win at least three out of four.”
Counsell’s two-out, two-run homer in the third gave Milwaukee a 2-0 lead. It was his fourth this season after hitting four over his previous two seasons combined. Zimmerman gave Washington a brief lead before Fielder erased it.
In the sixth with score still tied 3-3, Gallardo struck out Nick Johnson and Adam Dunn to strand Nyjer Morgan at third and left the mound with a spring in his step. Dunn threw his bat toward the Nationals‘ dugout in frustration, part of many this season for the team with the worst record in the majors (32-70).
“With the three and four hitters up there, you’ve just got to step it up,” Gallardo said. “I was able to do that today and get two big strikeouts in that inning.”
NOTES: Hall had been hitting .201 this season with just 17 at-bats in July. He turned down an assignment earlier this month, but said he chose to go this time and expects to be back in a week. Hall is in the third year of a $24 million, four-year deal with $8.9 million remaining on his contract. … Nationals OF Josh Willingham (neck strain) was a late scratch.