Despite having to face either Zack Greinke or Clayton Kershaw four times in the last week, the Milwaukee Brewers have found a way to win a pair of series from the National League-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.
Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez hit home runs, while Yovani Gallardo outpitched the National League Cy Young favorite to lead Milwaukee to a 3-2 victory over Los Angeles on Saturday at Dodger Stadium.
It was Kershaw’s first loss since May 28, as the Brewers snapped the star left-hander’s 11-game winning streak a night after rallying late to snatch the series opener.
"Yo was just outstanding," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "I thought Kershaw threw the ball really well. Brauny got the two-run homer off him, but besides that, Gomey hits the homer. He pitched better tonight, I thought, than at our ballpark."
Kershaw held the Brewers to just one run on six hits over eight innings in Los Angeles’ 5-1 victory at Miller Park last Sunday, but Milwaukee squandered multiple scoring opportunities by running into outs on the bases.
The Brewers had fewer chances Saturday, as the two-time Cy Young winner had six perfect innings and struck out 11, needing just 97 pitches to go the distance.
It turned into the first complete-game loss of Kershaw’s career thanks to the performance of Gallardo and a couple of big swings by the Brewers. After Kershaw set the first nine Milwaukee batters down in order, Gomez led off the fourth with a bullet to left for a double.
Following a groundout, Braun hit a 3-1 fastball from Kershaw out to right-center to put the Brewers up 2-0.
"You just hope to get a good pitch to hit and not miss it," Braun said. "He’s the best pitcher in baseball. He was on top of his game tonight. He had great stuff, we were fortunate to get a couple of runs against him."
The only blemish on Gallardo’s line came in the bottom of the fourth, as the Dodgers created yet another run with their speed. Carl Crawford reached on an infield single with one out, stole second and scored on Justin Turner’s base hit to center.
Mark Reynolds cut off the throw home from Gomez and threw out Turner at second, potentially preventing a bigger inning.
Gomez got Gallardo the run back in the sixth, hitting a first-pitch changeup from Kershaw for his 19th home run of the season, providing the Brewers with what turned out to be a critical insurance run. Kershaw entered Saturday not having allowed a home run in his last four starts, but surrendered multiple homers for the first time since Sept. 8, 2013.
After a leadoff single in the bottom of the sixth, Gallardo retired the last nine he faced to get through eight innings at 96 pitches. It was the first time the right-hander went eight innings since June 10, 2013, and the first time he’s went that deep in under 100 pitches.
Gallardo allowed six hits, walked just one and struck out three to earn his eighth win of the season.
"His fastball was outstanding today," Roenicke said of Gallardo. "He really pitched off the fastball pretty much all game. He mixed in his slider and his curveball, but he really dominated with the fastball."
Despite Gallardo’s relatively low pitch count, Roenicke said the decision not to bring him back for the ninth wasn’t a tough one. Closer Francisco Rodriguez allowed a solo home run to Matt Kemp to start tine inning, but he retired the next three batters he faced to record his major-league leading 38th save.
The Brewers will go for a series sweep of the Dodgers on Sunday behind Wily Peralta knowing they have already won both series from Los Angeles thanks to a combined three victories with either Kershaw or Greinke pitching.
With St. Louis and Pittsburgh losing Saturday, Milwaukee extended its division lead to three games over the Cardinals and 4 1/2 games over the Pirates.
"I think we’ve played good ballgames against them," Roenicke said of the Dodgers. "We feel like when we play good, and we’ve had good pitching, that good things are going to happen. That’s a good club. You can’t mess around too much. You can’t make mistakes. Hopefully we’ll continue to play clean ball.
"To beat (Greinke and Kershaw), we know we have to have a great game against them. That’s what we played."
Interference? Despite the victory, Roenicke was not pleased with an interference call made by second-base umpire Hunter Wendelstedt in the seventh inning Saturday.
With Rickie Weeks on first base, Elian Herrera hit a slow roller that was fielded by first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Weeks appeared to legally slide into second base, as the pace the ball was hit at made a double play unlikely.
Wendelstedt ruled Herrera out at first base, telling Roenicke that Weeks tumbled over the base and collided with shortstop Miguel Rojas on the other side of the bag. Jean Segura clearly committed interference while trying to break up a double play Friday, but Milwaukee’s skipper was perplexed by the call Saturday.