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Must C Clutch: Kottaras delivers walk-off win

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers man-of-the-hour George Kottaras would not have enjoyed a mouthful of shaving cream pie Tuesday night if not for one sweet slide by Milwaukee's new first baseman.

Mat Gamel had already belted his first Brewers home run since 2009 before scoring the game-winning run when he scampered from first to home on Kottaras' decisive double in the bottom of the ninth inning. Gamel slid expertly around Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis, tapped home plate and gave the Brewers a 5-4 win at Miller Park that snapped the team's four-game losing streak.

"That's a first for me," Gamel said. "That's the most fun game I've ever been a part of."

It was a win Brewers manager Ron Roenicke wanted badly. So badly that, with runners at first and second in the ninth, one out and the Dodgers up a run, Roenicke batted a catcher, Kottaras, in place of the Brewers' only active shortstop, Cesar Izturis. The regular starter at short, Alex Gonzalez, was tending to his wife and newborn son in Miami.

Had Gamel not executed such a slick slide, and the game reached extra innings, Roenicke would have been forced to move to Plans B and C. Veteran Aramis Ramirez, who has played all 14,133 2/3 innings of his defensive innings at third base, would have slid over to shortstop for the first time in his career. Gamel would have moved from first to third.

"I'm glad it didn't come to that," Roenicke said.

Still, he took the chance.

"Sometimes you feel like you have to do whatever you can to win," Roenicke said.

Before their rally, the Brewers were in danger of losing a game they led after seven innings for the first time since last July 4, when Francisco Rodriguez was still closing games for the Mets. Rodriguez has been baseball's most famous setup man since then, but he had a rare letdown on Tuesday when Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier connected for a two-out, two-run homer in the eighth inning that gave the Dodgers a 4-3 lead.

Corey Hart sparked the comeback in the ninth with a leadoff single against Dodgers closer Javy Guerra. Pinch-runner Carlos Gomez replaced Hart and stole second base before Guerra walked Gamel.

After Jonathan Lucroy could not get down a bunt, he struck out. Up next was Kottaras, who connected with a 2-2 slider for the double that won the game.

"It was the right thought process, but I caught too much of the plate," Guerra said. "Give him credit, he did a good job. I've got to execute better.

"It's tough, not just from my standpoint, but we battled back. That's a game we have to win. That was my bad."

The Dodgers lost for only the second time in 11 games this season.

Kottaras saw Gamel's slide from second base and said, "that won the game for us." Gamel also stole a base Tuesday, his third in 11 games this season, but he downplayed his fleetness of foot.

"Even if you ask Eddie [Sedar, Milwaukee's baserunning instructor], he would tell you I've never been a good baserunner by any stretch," Gamel said. "But you play the game long enough and you're around it long enough, you pick up on things. Baserunning is a big part of it. It can definitely help you win games."

Said Roenicke: "They told me he could run, and I see a good baserunner, also."

Gamel figured in all of the Brewers' scoring rallies. In the second inning, he hit his first Major League home run since Sept. 27, 2009, a solo blast off Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley in Milwaukee's two-run second inning. Gamel had only limited Brewers at-bats in the two seasons that followed before getting his big break in 2012 as Prince Fielder's replacement at first base.

Gamel credited a series of small mechanical adjustments he'd been trying with Brewers hitting coach Johnny Narron.

"I've been working on a few things at the plate, and to go out and finally hit the ball the way I know I'm capable of, hit the ball hard three times, it was big," Gamel said.

In the seventh, after the Dodgers tied the game at 2, Gamel greeted right-handed Matt Guerrier by pulling a single to right field. Gamel stole second base, took third on Izturis' second single of the night and scored on a squeeze bunt by pinch-hitter Norichika Aoki.

Aoki, a three-time batting champion in Japan, took a first-pitch ball from Guerrier, and then showed bunt on three consecutive pitches. He pulled the first attempt foul, pulled back the bat on the second for Ball 2, then tapped the third pitch in front of home plate while Gamel broke home. Guerrier's only play was to first base.

Aoki's first Major League RBI came as a pinch-hitter for Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo, who pitched seven quality innings and was in line for the win.

Gallardo settled for a no-decision after allowing two runs on seven hits in seven innings. He walked two and struck out seven.

"Obviously, the last four games on the road trip didn't go our way," Gallardo said. "We're here at home for nine games, and we got it started on the right foot."

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