MILWAUKEE -- Yovani Gallardo's stellar opening month remained a memory on Tuesday night, when he struggled over five innings of a 6-4 loss to the Twins at Miller Park.
Gallardo surrendered home runs to Josh Willingham and Brian Dozier that accounted for five of Minnesota's runs as the Brewers bid farewell to their home fans ahead of a stretch that sees them play 15 of the next 18 games on the road. Thanks to a Cardinals loss on Tuesday, the Brewers will begin their journey on Wednesday night in Minneapolis with a five-game lead in the National League Central.
That provided little immediate solace for Gallardo, who was blunt in assessing his outing.
"It [stunk]," he said. "Simple as that."
Amid his fifth consecutive Opening Day start, Gallardo went 2-0 with a 1.91 ERA in six April starts but has struggled in six starts since then, going 1-4 with a 7.09 ERA including Tuesday's loss. He allowed only three home runs in his first six starts but nine home runs in the next six.
His six earned runs Tuesday were a season high. His eight hits were one shy of a season high. Gallardo also walked a batter and struck out six.
"Since the first inning, I was battling with my mechanics," Gallardo said. "The more frustrating thing is it was the total opposite from the bullpen. I warmed up before the game, everything was there, and then I go out there and get out of it."
"It's commanding the ball," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "For some reason, he gets out of rhythm, and he doesn't throw the strikes we know he can. I don't know what it is, but you look at his first and second inning, and the balls and strikes are almost the same. He can't go through games doing that. Somehow we have to go back to him throwing strikes back down in the zone."
Gallardo experienced a similar funk at the exact same time last year, going 1-5 with a 6.21 ERA in seven starts from the beginning of May through one start in June. He followed with three consecutive scoreless outings, then struggled again going into the All-Star break.
The Brewers attributed that funk to trouble with Gallardo's rhythm, and they were pleased he was able to fix it. After the All-Star break, he had a 3.09 ERA over 11 starts.
"His delivery, to me, looks OK," Roenicke said. "Sometimes he gets going too fast, sometimes he gets going too slow, but I don't see that right now. I don't really know what the issue is. We'll keep trying to get this thing fixed, getting him to throw more strikes, getting ahead of the count and putting guys away."
The Brewers spotted Gallardo a lead when Jean Segura singled leading off the bottom of the first inning and eventually scored on Ryan Braun's fielder's choice grounder. In 12 games since moving into the leadoff spot, Segura has scored a first-inning run seven times.
But Gallardo surrendered the lead as his pitch count began to mount in the second inning. Second baseman Scooter Gennett's missed catch error on a potential pickoff attempt helped the Twins tie the game in the second inning when Josmil Pinto followed with a single, and Dozier and Mauer singled with one out in the third inning before Willingham hit a high slider for a three-run home run and a 4-1 Minnesota lead.
Willingham has long been a tough out for the Brewers. He has nine career home runs against the Brewers, including seven in 23 career games at Miller Park.
Dozier padded the lead with a two-run homer in the fifth inning, this time on a high fastball from Gallardo.
"After giving up four runs, you have to keep it there; you're not allowed to give up any more," Gallardo said. "The main thing is, I have to stop making mistakes with guys on." Brewers batters could not cash in on their chances against Samuel Deduno and the Twins' bullpen. Minnesota pitchers induced three inning-ending double plays, the most costly produced by Gallardo himself in the fourth inning.
Khris Davis had led off that inning with a single, and Deduno then issued walks to Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay to load the bases for Martin Maldonado's RBI single, cutting the deficit to 4-2. Deduno also fell behind Gallardo, 2-0, but Gallardo swung at the next pitch and grounded a double play ball to shortstop.
"That's the kind of day it was," Gallardo said.
Roenicke considered putting a "take" sign on Gallardo, but he opted against it. Gallardo is the best hitter on the Brewers' pitching staff, a week removed from coming off the bench to deliver a walk-off double to beat the Cubs on May 28.
"You always think about it, but it's not a time, with Yovani up there, that you give him a take sign," Roenicke said. "'Yo' can drive the ball and is as good a hitter as any pitcher -- he's showed that. I think it's a good time with 'Yo.' I think he can be selective enough to get the pitch he wanted, and the ball ran in on him more than he thought."
Deduno earned the win after allowing two earned runs on six hits in five innings.
"I walked a couple guys, and then I made a pretty good pitch," Deduno said of his fourth-inning escape. "Today the fastball was a little bit crazy. The sinker was pretty good."
The Brewers stranded runners in scoring position in four straight innings from the third to the sixth before Overbay blooped a run-scoring single in the eighth inning to make it a three-run game. Braun added a sacrifice fly in the ninth against Twins closer Glen Perkins, but Carlos Gomez, representing the tying run, struck out to end the game.
"We had enough chances to be ahead in the ballgame," Roenicke said. "[But] we've been doing a pretty good job offensively, so that is going to happen."