MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers had one of their big guys at the plate with a chance to tie the game with one swing, but All-Star Ryan Braun authored a fittingly frustrating end to the first half. Braun popped out to finish an 0-for-5 afternoon and a 3-for-25 homestand, and the Brewers bowed to the Dodgers, 7-4, at sold-out Miller Park on Sunday in the final game before a three-day All-Star break. "That's a situation you want to have, an opportunity to influence the game," said Braun, who had only one hit in 14 weekend at-bats against his hometown Dodgers. "I got a pitch to hit -- a couple of pitches to hit, actually. But I didn't get the job done."
Neither did starter Yovani Gallardo (8-7), who lost his third straight start after allowing five runs on six hits and four walks in five uneven innings. The Brewers didn't get the job done as a unit, losing their eighth consecutive daytime home game. The team finished the first half by losing eight of its final 11 games. "I don't think our team is tired," Brewers manager Ken Macha said. "Our guys are playing hard. ... Today we battled back and were in the game, so I wouldn't call the club tired. We just needed a little extra hit, like in the first inning." That first-inning opportunity came against Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw (7-5), who surrendered a one-out double to Corey Hart and then issued consecutive two-out walks to Prince Fielder and Casey McGehee. Kershaw came back to strike out Mike Cameron, then didn't allow another hit until the seventh. "The first inning is just always my rough inning," Kershaw said. "If I'm able to get out of that unscathed, I can kind of settle in after that. I threw too many pitches, obviously, but that's another story." The Dodgers (56-32) built a healthy lead for their young southpaw. Orlando Hudson hit a pair of solo home runs off Brewers relievers Chris Smith and Mitch Stetter, and Brad Ausmus went deep against Gallardo, three of 10 Dodgers home runs in the three-game series. Gallardo fell into an early hole with little help from his defense, as right fielder Hart misplayed a Manny Ramirez fly ball into a double and center fielder Cameron was charged with an error on James Loney's RBI single, allowing an extra run to score. By the middle of the seventh inning, the Dodgers had a 6-0 lead. Gallardo admitted he needed the All-Star break to recharge. So did Braun, who shuttled off to the All-Star Game on Sunday evening but will get a bit more of a break this year because he's not participating in the State Farm Home Run Derby. Braun optimistically called the Brewers' last 11 games "not great." "You just look forward," Braun said. "You can't look back at this point. It does no good. I look forward to the second half. It's going to be nice for everybody to have some time off, to come back fresh and excited. We're in the race, obviously. So I'm excited about having an opportunity to compete to get back to the playoffs." Braun ended the game with a popout against Ramon Troncoso, who notched his fifth save, and Macha was asked if Braun looked tired. Macha, in turn, mentioned Braun's candid comments after the Brewers' last road trip about the team's struggles in Chicago. "Not a very good homestand," Macha said of Braun, who will start the All-Star Game on Tuesday night. "We had some interesting times coming out of Chicago, and I hope we put that -- and he puts that behind him. I think when things like that happen, maybe you're trying too hard. You start swinging at balls out of the strike zone." Macha mentioned Friday night, when Braun batted against Troncoso with the winning run at second base and two outs. Braun struck out on a pitch down-and-in. "I'm going to say that all the balls were out of the strike zone, and that's trying to do too much," Macha said. "We put all that stuff behind us. As a team, we have to get on a rope with everybody pulling the same direction. What we did [Sunday] is just what we did [in another loss to L.A. on Friday] -- we battled all the way." It was a battle all afternoon for the Brewers (45-43) against the talented Kershaw, who allowed only one run on two hits despite issuing five walks in six-plus innings. The Brewers were hitless from the second inning until the seventh, when Cameron led off with a double and prompted a call for reliever Hiroki Kuroda. Bill Hall greeted Kuroda with a double that put the Brewers on the board. Hall moved to third base on a groundout and scored on pinch-hitter Jody Gerut's sacrifice fly. The Brewers added two more runs in the eighth to pull within three, then put two runners on base in the ninth. "We took two out of three against a good young team over there to end the first half well," the Dodgers' Hudson said. Gallardo, meanwhile, was ready for a break. "My command was off again today," he said. "The last two games, something mechanically is a little off. But that's a good hitting team, and they put the bat on the mistakes that I made." Gallardo will get some extra rest before his next start. He was headed home to Texas for the All-Star break, and is not penciled in to pitch until Sunday in Cincinnati. "I have to make an adjustment," Gallardo said. "The break will be a good time to kind of lay back a little bit. There's something a little bit off in my mechanics. I'll get away from the game a little for the next couple of days, and then figure it out. "It's pretty upsetting. I was throwing the ball pretty well up until my last two starts. I just have to make an adjustment. I think we had a pretty good first half."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.