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LAD@MIL: Estrada fans five in five good innings

MILWAUKEE -- It took a National League Cy Young Award contender and a number of Milwaukee mistakes to stop the runaway Brewers.

Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw danced in and out of trouble on Thursday throughout eight scoreless innings at Miller Park, pitching the visitors to a 5-1 win and spoiling the Brewers' bid for a perfect homestand.

"It doesn't feel too bad when you lose to a guy like that," Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder said.

That may be true, but Milwaukee's own miscues certainly didn't help.

"We didn't play real well today," manager Ron Roenicke said. "Hey, we've been playing great. We didn't play well."

First, the bigger picture: Playing in front of their 24th sellout crowd at Miller Park, the Brewers lost for only the third time in 22 games and settled for a 3-1 series win over the Dodgers and a 6-1 homestand. They ceded a half-game to the idle Cardinals, who now sit 6 1/2 games behind first-place Milwaukee in the NL Central.

Fielder preferred to focus on those positives instead of Thursday's negatives, which included another missed sign on a suicide squeeze, two Brewers errors and another quiet day for a supposedly potent offense. In each of their last six games, the Brewers have scored three or fewer runs.

Until Thursday, it had been working.

"I think, beyond the way we're playing, we got closer as a team," Fielder said of the club's success since the All-Star break. "That's the key. We're a real team now. The record is going to be fine. With the talent we have, we're going to win."

They had been winning, until Thursday.

Catcher Rod Barajas, in an 0-for-13 slump entering the day, was the Dodgers' difference-maker. He delivered a two-out home run off Brewers starter Marco Estrada (3-8) in the second inning and a rally-sparking two-out double off Kameron Loe in the seventh. With first base open and the pitcher Kershaw on deck in a 1-0 game, the Brewers opted to pitch to second baseman Jamey Carroll, who singled to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead. He took second on a throw home, and then scored when Loe threw Kershaw's bunt behind the runner and into right field. The error gave the Dodgers a 3-0 advantage.

Of pitching to Carroll, Roenicke said, "We've got a slow runner in Barajas at second. We have a guy [in Carroll] who's not going to drive a ball to the gap. We've got all the outfielders in. I didn't think there was any way the guy could get a base hit and drive in the runner, and he happens to hit a ground ball that dribbles up the middle. We had a lot of things working in our favor to go ahead and pitch to him."

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly called the decision "a tough one."

"There's different trains of thought there," Mattingly said. "Some people will go after that eight-hole guy depending on what time of the game it is. Jamey has 10 RBIs. It's a tough call. It's one of those situations where if it didn't work out, why didn't you go after the pitcher? It's a tough one."

The runs snapped a scoreless streak for Brewers relievers that spanned 20 2/3 innings. Another reliever, Tim Dillard, surrendered two more runs in the eighth inning.

Loe's errant throw was not the Brewers' only mistake. In the third inning, with runners at the corners and one out and Hairston at the plate, Roenicke ordered a suicide squeeze. Josh Wilson broke home from third with the pitch, but Hairston, who missed the call, swung away and grounded into an inning-ending double play.

It was the Brewers' second botched squeeze in three days. Shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt missed a sign in Tuesday's win.

Roenicke was more upset about Betancourt's whiff than Hairston's, because the Brewers recently acquired Hairston on July 30 from the Nationals. The issue was Kershaw's pickoff attempt to first base just before the double play. Some teams reset signs after a throw over, while some don't.

"That's just a guy coming from somewhere else who hasn't been around us long enough to know exactly what we're doing," Roenicke said. "Just miscommunication right there on a big play."

It was one of a number of missed opportunities against Kershaw (15-5), who scattered five hits in eight scoreless innings. The lefty won for the seventh time in eight starts, and struck out six to finish one strikeout shy of 200 for the season.

Ryan Braun and Fielder, the Brewers' NL MVP Award hopefuls, each had chances in the first and sixth innings against Kershaw with a runner in scoring position, but came up empty. Braun flew out to right field both times, and Fielder struck out in the first inning and flew out to left field on Kershaw's first pitch in the sixth.

The duo finally put the Brewers on the board in the bottom of the ninth inning against Dodgers reliever Javy Guerra, when Braun tripled and scored on Fielder's sacrifice fly.

Where would Kershaw rank on Fielder's Cy Young Award ballot?

"He's definitely up there," Fielder said. "There's a lot of good lefties, but he's one of the ones who tends to dominate. Lefties who can make it tough on righties, those are the lefties you usually hear about."

Estrada, making his second start in place of injured lefty Chris Narveson, allowed just three hits in five innings before Los Angeles scored two runs apiece in the seventh and eighth innings to pull away.

"I had the pitch count to go deeper in the game, and I just threw too many balls," said Estrada, who threw 58 of 94 pitches for strikes. "I got behind too many times and only gave the team five [innings], where I should have gone six or seven." Comments