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COL@MIL: Gallardo strikes out eight in seven strong

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers' only run Sunday was gift-wrapped by the Rockies. Ryan Braun broke from first base on a full-count pitch to Aramis Ramirez in the fourth inning, and the throw down beat Braun to the bag. The trouble was, second baseman Marco Scutaro thought the pitch was ball four, and never even tried to tag Braun.

Instead, it was strike three, and the non-tag cost Colorado a strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out double play. Braun eventually scored on Mat Gamel's two-out single, but that was all the Brewers could muster in a 4-1 loss to the Rockies at Miller Park, where a sellout crowd of 42,611 fans waited in vain for the home team to start hitting.

"It just happens," said Brewers leadoff man Rickie Weeks, who is batting .197 after going 1-for-3 Sunday. "We're still working hard. It's not like we're not taking our job serious."

It appears Saturday's nine-run outburst was the anomaly for an offense struggling to score. The Brewers haven't recorded a hit in the first three innings of their last three games. Their opponent has scored first in four straight games. Milwaukee hasn't scored more than three runs off a starting pitcher in eight games, and the club has scored three runs or fewer in seven of its last 11 contests.

Manager Ron Roenicke is trying to figure out what to do about it.

"I definitely don't flip tables, and I hope I never get to that point," he said Sunday morning. "It's hard to say what you should do. I try to stay positive with guys, because I know the harder you try to force things, it usually doesn't work out well."

Roenicke was given an opportunity to change his mind after another frustrating loss, one in which the Brewers managed four hits. He didn't bite.

"We have to ride it out," Roenicke said. "We went through it last year, and we'll do it again the same way. If there was a better way to do it, I would do it. And I've seen different managers, different coaches go about it differently through a lot of years that I've watched, and it doesn't seem to go well when the coaches start losing their temper a little bit and panic, or whatever you want to call it. It doesn't seem to work out well that way."

It didn't work out well Sunday, when Michael Cuddyer's two-run double in the eighth inning broke a 1-1 tie. The knock came against Brewers reliever Francisco Rodriguez, who had just surrendered an infield hit and a walk.

Cuddyer delivered the decisive hit in both Colorado wins in the series. He delivered a go-ahead single off Brewers closer John Axford on Friday night. 

"This was a big series for us," Cuddyer said. "Last year, the success that the Brewers had at home, I don't know if they ever lost a series here. So to be able to come in and get a series win is huge."

The Brewers had their best chance in the bottom of the eighth inning, when Weeks walked and Carlos Gomez punched a pinch-hit single through the hole between first and second base.

Rockies reliever Matt Belisle retired the next three hitters -- Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart -- to preserve the lead, and Rafael Betancourt handled the ninth inning for his fifth save.

"When you don't have many opportunities through the game, then you get that one shot at it and you feel like everything is on the line in one inning," Roenicke said. "Unfortunately, it should be a lot of different innings. It's tough."

The Brewers' anemic offense left starter Yovani Gallardo with a no-decision after seven quality innings, in which he allowed one run on six hits. Gallardo walked only one batter, the opposing pitcher Jeremy Guthrie in the second inning, and set a season high with eight strikeouts.  

Gallardo struggled with his command early, allowing three hits and a run in the first inning and reaching a two-ball count against seven of the eight Rockies batters he faced in the second and third, as his pitch count ballooned to 58 entering the fourth.

Gallardo was sharp after that, though, breezing through the fourth on just 10 pitches. He continued that trend in the fifth (11 pitches), sixth (14) and seventh (13) while allowing only two Rockies singles.

"That first inning, I was leaving the ball up in the zone a little bit, but I was able to slow down and find it," said Gallardo, who is 1-0 with a 1.71 ERA and 21 strikeouts over his last three starts.

The Brewers tied the game in the fourth against Guthrie but managed no more. The right-hander earned the win after scattering three hits and three walks in seven innings.

"That was a tough loss. We all know that," Gallardo said. "We just have to keep battling and working hard, and hopefully we're able to turn this around. ... We're just not where we want to be right now, where we need to be. We're all going to struggle at some point. The [hitters] are working hard." Comments