Yovani Gallardo set a career high with 12 strikeouts and allowed only one run in seven innings, but his outing went for naught in a 1-0 loss to Mike Pelfrey and the Mets at Miller Park on Wednesday. Pelfrey scattered six singles in 7 2/3 innings and combined with relievers Sean Green and Francisco Rodriguez on the Mets' fifth shutout win this season. New York averted a three-game sweep.
"Tough luck for 'Yo,'" Macha said. "You look forward to having your best guy go out and pitch, and when you don't win, you're disappointed."
The Brewers were blanked for just the third time this season, but two have come in the past four games. They settled for a 5-4 homestand against the Twins, Giants and Mets ahead of a key, four-game series at Wrigley Field against the Cubs. The Brewers will enter the series opener on Thursday with at least a one-game lead over the Cardinals in the National League Central, pending St. Louis' game Wednesday night.
"We're in first place. That's all that really matters," said Ryan Braun, the only Brewer with two hits on Wednesday. "We're playing well right now, and I think a lot of guys are starting to put together some quality at-bats. We're in pretty good shape."
The Brewers had their chances against all three Mets pitchers, but Pelfrey (6-3) induced some well-struck but well-placed outs, and Rodriguez (21st save) stranded Braun on second base in the ninth inning after the slugger led off with a single.
It wasn't Milwaukee's only close call. In the second inning with Mat Gamel at second base, Jason Kendall hit a ball inches foul before grounding out to end the inning. Prince Fielder hit a towering fly ball just shy of the right-field warning track in the fourth inning, then smashed a line drive off Rodriguez in the ninth to a perfectly-placed Mets shortstop Alex Cora. In the sixth with a runner at second base, Braun hit a line drive to the right-center-field gap, only to see Mets center fielder Fernando Martinez run it down. Braun spiked his helmet in frustration.
"It was pretty much a game of inches today," Macha said.
That went for the Mets, too. The teams were scoreless into the sixth inning, when Gallardo jammed Mets second baseman Luis Castillo with an up-and-in pitch. Castillo managed to bloop it just inside the left-field foul line for a ground-rule double, and Ryan Church followed two batters later with a ground-ball single up the middle that barely eluded second baseman Craig Counsell.
"That's baseball," Gallardo said. "You're going to give up weak hits."
Gallardo escaped further damage in the inning, then struck out two more batters in the seventh to tie and set his personal best for whiffs. Gallardo struck out 11 Pirates batters in a 1-0 win on April 29.
"He's nasty," Church said. "He's got great stuff. He controls all of his pitches, and today he was able to keep everybody guessing and he was throwing that curveball in the dirt."
Brewers right fielder Corey Hart had a particularly tough afternoon. Fielder's towering out in the fourth inning left runners at first and third with one out, but Hart grounded into an inning-ending double play. Fielder singled leading off the seventh and moved into scoring position on Pelfrey's balk. With the tying run at second base and nobody out, Hart was asked to bunt.
Hart's first attempt looked perfect before it changed course and rolled foul. He bunted through Pelfrey's next pitch, a sinker, and Mets catcher Brian Schneider made a snap throw to second base to catch Fielder in a rundown. Hart grounded out and Gamel struck out, and all of a sudden a promising Brewers rally had fizzled.
"That's what's instructed for catchers, so it's a good play for [Schneider]," Macha said. "Prince got a little far out, but really, it comes down to putting the bat on the ball. You bunt through it, the runner at second starts leaning. That doesn't just happen to Prince, it happens to a lot of guys who are good baserunners."
Hart offered no excuses.
"I could have gotten it down, but I didn't," Hart said.
Pelfrey deserved more than a bit of credit. He matched his longest outing of the season and won for the second time in his past six decisions.
"Obviously he's been hittable, according to his numbers, but he was really good today," Hart said. "He actually threw a lot like [Florida's] Josh Johnson; everything was hard and down. Sometimes you run into those guys."
It's happened twice now to Gallardo. He worked seven innings on June 21 in Detroit, but was burned by a Brandon Inge three-run homer in the Brewers' 3-2 loss to Tigers ace Justin Verlander.
"I think I threw the ball pretty good up there," Gallardo said. "Just that one hit up the middle got through. ... [Pelfrey] kept our hitters off balance. He did a good job. It's tough."