CINCINNATI -- Before Sunday's game against the Reds, Brewers manager Ken Macha said his team needed to get more consistent outings from its relievers if the club wanted to be a contender during the second half.

In a tie game, he didn't get that consistent outing he needed, however.

In the eighth inning, Brewers reliever Seth McClung gave up a two-run homer that gave the Reds the lead and was the difference in Milwaukee's 5-3 loss. It erased hope of the club taking the four-game series from the Reds.

"It wound up being a bullpen game, and they outpitched us out of the bullpen," Macha said. "Gomes is up there swinging for home runs. If you don't get the ball away on him, he's going to hurt you, and that's what happened."

After McClung pitched a scoreless seventh, he couldn't replicate the same results the following inning. He allowed a leadoff single to Chris Dickerson and, on a 2-1 pitch, the costly hit to Gomes to left field.

The Brewers had held a 3-2 lead after Prince Fielder blasted a two-run homer to right field in the third. Yet that was about as good as it got for the Brewers because the Reds weren't going away.

"They got their leadoff men on [base] five of the eight times, which makes you work a little harder to get the outs," Macha said. "Prince hit the home run to get the lead. Right off the bat, their leadoff guy gets on."

That leadoff hitter in the third was Joey Votto, who singled to center off Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo. Votto reached second on a groundout and two batters later scored on a hit by Gomes to tie the game.

"They gave me a lead and I made a mistake," Gallardo said.

He overcame the mistake and settled down over the next three innings, clamping down to keep Cincinnati scoreless.

Gallardo said he thought the start was a step in the right direction but conceded he threw too many pitches early in the game. He threw six innings and allowed three runs on seven hits with seven strikouts.

The loss was overshadowed by what Macha called an "erratic" strike zone by umpire Kevin Causey. In the game, the Brewers were called out on strikes five times. One of those called third strikes was on the game's final out, a strikeout by Craig Counsell.

Counsell declined to comment on the umpiring because he said nothing good would come from it. He did say it was a tough loss to stomach.

"The game was there for the taking and we couldn't get the runs across," Counsell said.

Another questionable call occurred during the third. Left fielder Ryan Braun hit a grounder that Reds starter Johnny Cueto fielded and threw to second baseman Brandon Phillips. Mike Cameron was called out at second despite video replays showing Phillips never had control of the ball.

"They call that a lot," Macha said of the play.

Fielder then hit his homer which would have added another run to the Brewers total.

"All the games were winnable," Macha said. "I think the past two days there was an inordinate amount of called [third strikes]."