Lead escapes Gallardo, Brewers

Lead escapes Gallardo, Brewers

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers gave their budding ace a four-run cushion on Monday. Yovani Gallardo gave it right back and then some.

Gallardo surrendered six Reds runs in the third inning, all with two outs, in a 7-6 Brewers loss at Miller Park that had an unfortunately familiar feeling. Gallardo's one-inning struggle -- six straight hitters reached base safely, including Edwin Encarnacion, who touched them all after his third career grand slam -- came about 24 hours after Jeff Suppan and Jorge Julio issued four bases-loaded walks in one inning of a loss to the Cubs.

The Reds had seven runs on the scoreboard before they notched their fourth hit. That, too, was reminiscent of Sunday, when the Cubs scored eight runs on only five hits.

"I did my best to explain [Sunday]," Milwaukee manager Ken Macha said. "I'm going to have a tough time explaining today, too."

It especially was difficult to explain, considering that Gallardo had never walked more than three batters in any of his previous 25 big league appearances. On Monday, he issued three walks and hit a batter in the span of five hitters.

Cincinnati's third-inning rally came just one-half inning after the Brewers staked Gallardo to a big lead. Jason Kendall snapped an 0-for-15 start to the season with an RBI single in the bottom of the second that gave Milwaukee a 2-1 lead. Corey Hart followed three batters later with an opposite-field, three-run home run, his team-best third this season, to make it 5-1.

Gallardo retired the first two hitters he faced in the top of the third before things fell apart. He issued back-to-back walks to Willy Taveras and Chris Dickerson before Joey Votto cut the deficit to 5-2 with an RBI single. Gallardo then walked Brandon Phillips and hit Jay Bruce on the hand with a full-count offering to force in another run.

His next pitch was a down-the-middle fastball to Encarnacion, who didn't miss it.

"I was unable to make pitches when I really needed to," Gallardo said. "In a situation like that, you have to find a way to get out of it."

Gallardo finally struck out Reds catcher Ramon Hernandez to end the inning on his 40th pitch of the frame. Contrast that to the first inning, when Gallardo set down the Reds in order on eight pitches.

Forty pitches in one inning is a dangerously high tally. Did fatigue play a role?

"Maybe," Gallardo said. "Mainly it's just frustrating, especially after two outs. That's the last thing you want to have happen. ... After that, I just tried to hold them there and hopefully allow the team an opportunity to come back and win. But I blew a four-run lead. I mean, I was pretty upset about that."

Gallardo did save face -- and the bullpen -- by avoiding additional damage and getting through the fifth inning. All seven runs were earned on just three Reds hits, including homers by Encarnacion and Bruce, who hit a laser beam to right field with no runners on base and one out in the second inning.

But his outing continued a troubling trend. Brewers pitchers have walked 35 batters and hit seven with pitches, all in just seven games this season. They lead the Major Leagues in both dubious categories.

"That's got to stop," Macha said. "Giving those bases away all the time, you can't afford to do that."

The Reds' sudden outburst spoiled the Brewers' own rally in the second inning against Cincinnati starter Edinson Volquez (1-1).

J.J. Hardy cut the deficit to 7-6 when he led off the fifth inning with a solo home run, but four Reds relievers, including two former Brewers, threw blanks the rest of the way. David Weathers retired Hardy on a fly out with the bases loaded in the eighth inning, and Francisco Cordero worked the ninth for his second save.

Cincinnati's bullpen preserved the win for Volquez, who was charged with six runs on seven hits and four walks in five innings.

The Brewers had their chances along the way. They loaded the bases in the fourth inning. Kendall and Gallardo singled in front of Rickie Weeks, who was hit near the mouth by a 94-mph Volquez fastball in a very scary moment. Weeks hit the dirt, but he remained in the game and finished 1-for-4.

"He's one of the toughest guys you're ever going to see," Hart said. "He's the one guy who's going to get back up and shake it off."

The scoring opportunity, though, went unfulfilled. Hart hit one line drive just foul, then he rocketed another right at the shortstop for the first out of the inning. Braun dribbled a fielder's-choice grounder to Volquez, who shoveled it home for out No. 2. Prince Fielder, who drove in Milwaukee's first run, grounded out to third base to end the inning.

The Brewers also moved runners into scoring position in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, but they were unable to score. Their best chance might have come in the eighth against Weathers, when Hardy hit a hard line out to right-center field.

"That's the game, though," Macha said. "There's holes out there. We just have to start finding them with guys on base."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.