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Zach Britton blows first save as Orioles suffer 7-6 loss to Brewers in 10 innings

MILWAUKEE -- The Orioles and the Milwaukee Brewers may not play against each other often, but they sure do make it entertaining.

After the Orioles pulled off a dramatic, extra-inning victory Monday afternoon, the two were back at it Tuesday night.

This time, the Brewers won, 7-6, in 10 innings on a pinch-hit, RBI double by the next day’s starting pitcher. His game-winning hit followed an intentional walk to former Orioles infielder Mark Reynolds with no one on base and two outs.

Really.

Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo, who will face the Orioles on Wednesday in the series’ rubber match, was called on to pinch-hit in the bottom of the 10th against Orioles left-hander T.J. McFarland (0-1).

McFarland had retired the first two batters he faced in the inning when Orioles manager Buck Showalter decided to have him intentionally walk Reynolds to get to the pitcher’s spot.

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke countered by sending Gallardo, a career .202 hitter with 12 homers in 376 at-bats, to the plate.

“I’ll take my chances there. It’s kind of, you pick the situation. We were well aware Gallardo was one of their better hitters [as a pitcher],” Showalter said. “There are some decent hitting pitchers over here, we knew that coming in. We talked about it in the advanced meeting. I was hoping he had gone home to get ready for tomorrow.”

But Gallardo, who was 1-for-14 at the plate this season and hitless in four at-bats in his career as a pinch-hitter, was available. And ready.

McFarland immediately missed with two fastballs. He then left an 89-mph fastball up and over the plate. And Gallardo jumped on it, sending it to the left-center field gap, plenty of distance for Reynolds to score easily with the game-winner.

“He obviously was ambushing a fastball there, and unfortunately, I left it up, and he hit it. But I don’t think I would pitch a pitcher any differently than any other hitter,” McFarland said. “The pitch I threw was not a good pitch to any hitter. I got behind him, 2-0, and threw a fastball he could hit.”

It was the first time any pitcher had had a pinch-hit, game-winner since another Brewers player, Glendon Rusch, did it against the Houston Astros on April 19, 2003.

The Orioles (26-24) and Brewers (31-22) will play Wednesday night with the winner capturing the season series and the lead in the all-time interleague matchup, which is currently tied at 4.

Since the Brewers switched to the National League in 1998, the former American League East division rivals have played just two series. The Orioles were 2-1 at Camden Yards in 2003, and the Brewers were 2-1 in Milwaukee in 2008.

Tuesday’s game featured the first blown save by new Orioles closer Zach Britton. The left-hander had previously converted his first three opportunities, but he began Tuesday’s ninth by allowing a single to Lyle Overbay.

With two outs and pinch-runner Elian Herrera on third base, Jonathan Lucroy hit a dribbler that Manny Machado charged and fielded. His off-balance throw was a little wide, and Lucroy beat it out, allowing Herrera to tie the game at 6.

“Great ball placement. I thought I had it, but I shouldn’t have made a bad throw,” Machado said. “It was going to be a bang-bang play … It’s just one of those plays, perfect placement, and you can’t do nothing about it.”

The sinker-balling Britton said he felt like he made the pitches he wanted to -- resulting in three ground balls and a sacrifice bunt -- but two ended up as singles.

“The right pitch, the right execution, just an unlikely bounce. If Manny can’t make that play, there’s nobody that can make that play,” Britton said. “So, yeah, just a lucky bounce for them. Unfortunately, with all that hard work that our offense did to come back, we weren’t able to get that win.”

The victory would have come earlier for the Brewers, but Steve Pearce again found a way to make a difference when he gets onto the field.

After starting the previous two games at first base because Chris Davis was on paternity leave, Pearce was relegated to a bench role again Wednesday with Davis’ return.

So Pearce waited until the seventh, when he delivered the club’s first pinch-hit homer in three years as the Orioles took a 6-5 lead.

Trailing, 5-3, in the seventh, Pearce pinch-hit for the pitcher’s spot and ripped a fastball from Matt Garza inside the left-field foul pole for a three-run homer. It was the team’s first pinch-hit homer since Luke Scott against the Minnesota Twins on April 18, 2011.

Pearce, who was released and signed again by the Orioles in late April, has now batted .339 with three doubles, four homers and 11 RBIs in 56 at-bats since May 1.

The Orioles, who are 11-7 in one-run games and 5-2 in extra innings, trailed from the first inning in what was an extremely rare outing from left-hander Wei-Yin Chen this season.

Before he made his first career appearance in Milwaukee, Chen had allowed just four homers in his nine starts, spanning 53 innings in 2014. On Tuesday, he served up three in five innings, the first time he has allowed multiple long balls in a game since Sept. 18, 2013 at Boston.

The Brewers started the first with consecutive singles and a strikeout before Carlos Gomez crushed a hanging, 75-mph curveball to left field for a 3-0 lead.

“He was up. Real flat. He was fortunate his teammates battled, and we got back in that ballgame,” Showalter said. “He didn’t have much finish. Last outing, his breaking ball had a lot more tilt to it. Today it was pretty flat.”

Reynolds hit a solo homer in the second -- his 12th of the year -- and Khris Davis went deep in the fourth, his second in two games versus the Orioles. Chen was pulled after five innings, tying his shortest outing of the season, after allowing five runs and seven hits. He struck out six, tying a season high.

“I didn’t really do a good job today, but my teammates played well behind me,” Chen said through his interpreter, Louis Chao. “It’s just that I didn’t pitch well. That’s all.”

The Orioles’ offense wasn’t humming along early, either.

Garza allowed just one hit, a single by Jonathan Schoop, through his first four innings. Nelson Cruz led off the fifth with a home run to right-center field -- his major league-leading 17thof the year.

The Orioles scored twice more in the sixth against Garza on an RBI double by Nick Markakis and a sacrifice fly from Adam Jones.

Garza, who struck out a season-high nine batters, left shortly after Pearce’s home run -- yielding six runs (three earned), five hits and two walks.

Pearce's homer gave the Orioles hope that they could capture consecutive bizarre victories in Milwaukee. But the Brewers put their own twist on this one, with a game-winner from a former 17-game winner in Gallardo.

“I don’t think it’s just the last two games that have been bizarre. I feel like it’s been the whole season,” Pearce said. “We fight until the end and always have a chance to win at the end. We are prepared for it. We don't let the late innings get to us, and unfortunately, we didn't win today. But we’ll get after it tomorrow."

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

twitter.com/danconnollysun

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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