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ARI@MIL: Johnson belts a solo homer to open scoring

MILWAUKEE -- There were a couple of bright spots for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday.

Neither of them, however, was the final score.

The D-backs' bullpen faltered, as Casey McGehee hit a three-run pinch-hit homer to lead the Brewers to a 3-1 win in front of 35,009 at Miller Park.

Despite the loss, the D-backs managed to take two of three games on the road against a team that is in contention for the top spot in the National League Central.

That was the first positive note. The other was starter Josh Collmenter, who seemed to iron out the struggles of his past four outings and certainly deserved a win after turning in six shutout innings.

"[Collmenter] threw good," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "[He] gave us six strong innings -- no runs, threw the ball good, kept them off balance -- and that's certainly what we're looking for. Just a very tight game. Not a lot of opportunities."

Kelly Johnson got the D-backs on the board with the ninth leadoff homer of his career and the third by a D-backs player this season.

Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo fell behind, 2-0, before Johnson drove a 91-mph fastball just over the wall in center.

"Leading off the game, you know you're going to get mostly heaters; you can pretty much count on it, especially if he's fallen behind," Johnson said. "[Gallardo] is tough. He just rears back and can throw really hard and hit corners, and [he] rarely gives you anything out over [the plate]. It looked like it was going to be a 1-0 game pretty much all day."

That's because Gallardo settled in immediately after the homer, striking out the side, while Collmenter, who had lost his previous four starts, was shutting down the Brewers.

The right-hander scattered three hits over his six innings of work, walking one and fanning three. That's quite a contrast from his previous four outings, a span over which he compiled a 7.54 ERA.

The key for Collmenter, it seemed, was keeping the ball down, something he worked on in his recent bullpen sessions. When he focuses on location up or down, it is easier for him to move the ball in and out. However, he said when he's focused on locating his pitches in and out, it is harder for him to keep the ball down.

"All week long, I was working on fastball down," Collmenter said. "I think I got too carried away with working in and out and wasn't focused on getting it down. When I get my fastball down in the zone, it has that plane, and it really helps out my extension on my other pitches."

In his previous four starts, Collmenter had been hit hard the third time through the lineup after hitters had gotten comfortable with his unorthodox over-the-top delivery. Also, it was thought, he did not mix in his curve enough, which is the third best of his three pitches.

By locating his fastball effectively, Collmenter did not have to show his other pitches to hitters their first two times at the plate.

"It's feeling better every time out," Collmenter said of the curve. "I was fortunate enough that I didn't have to use it a whole lot, but I was able to mix it in for some outs and for some strikes. It just gives you another look. A lot of times they're not looking for that, so they'll take it quite a few times, just because they haven't seen it and they're geared up for something else. So the more I can do that, it really helps out, and then I can go after them with pitches I know I can get them out with."

After watching Collmenter throw 94 pitches through six innings, Gibson turned to his bullpen. After striking out Prince Fielder, the first batter he faced, lefty specialist Joe Paterson allowed back-to-back singles to put runners at first and second.

After Fielder told Brewers manager Ron Roenicke how impressed he was by Paterson, Roenicke elected to send up the right-handed-hitting McGehee to pinch-hit for left-handed-swinging Mat Gamel.

Gibson countered with right-hander Sam Demel. McGehee, who had just four hits in his previous 30 at-bats, battled Demel for six pitches before Demel left a sinker up over the plate and McGehee deposited it over the wall in right-center for a 3-1 Milwaukee lead.

"[McGehee] had a great at-bat," Demel said. "I came inside, went away. Everything I threw him, he was getting a piece of, so I tried to get a two-seam sinker down the middle of the plate to have him hit it on the ground, and I got it up a little bit. Tip your cap; he battled his butt off." Comments