MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Wes Helms was having trouble catching up to Brewers pitchers' fastballs. That's what happens, he said, when you spend much of the season sitting on the bench.
Fortunately for the Florida Marlins, he found his swing at the perfect time Sunday.
A third of the Brewers' games this season have gone extra innings. Only the Cubs are even close with five such games. In fact, Milwaukee has gone extras this season more than every AL division.
Helms came through in just his fourth start of the year, hitting a home run leading off the 10th inning and lifting the Florida Marlins to a 3-2 victory over Milwaukee.Helms hit an 0-2 fastball off Seth McClung (1-1) about five feet over the left-field wall for his first home run since Aug. 10."All day I've been behind the fastball," he said. "Without playing every day, the timing just wasn't there. ... I had a feeling -- I was really late on the second pitch -- that he was going to come back with it," he said.His hunch was correct. McClung went back to the fastball, and Helms connected."I cheated a little bit, got the hands out there a little earlier," Helms said. "If he throws a curve, I probably look like Bugs Bunny out there."McClung missed his spot with the pitch."It was the right pitch and the right mindset," he said. "It was what I wanted to throw. It just wasn't where I wanted to throw it."Playing for injured first baseman Mike Jacobs, Helms went 3-for-5 and drove in a pair of runs.The right-handed hitter was a reserve infielder for the Marlins in 2006, played for Philadelphia last year, but signed in early April with Florida."I did it in '06 and I feel like I'm sinking back into that role," he said. "Sometimes, you've got to find your role in this game and this might be it for me. I feel comfortable here and it feels good to be back in that role again."Matt Lindstrom (1-0) pitched the ninth, allowing a pair of base runners before striking out Ryan Braun to end the threat. Kevin Gregg, the Marlins' eighth pitcher, came on for the 10th inning and earned his fourth save in five chances. He struck out Craig Counsell with a split-fingered fastball with runners on first and third to end the game."I'm not afraid to get guys on, I always have somebody out there," Gregg said. "Counsell, I was able to locate some good pitches on him. The last pitch was a splittie that was exactly where I wanted it to be."The Brewers again went deep into their bullpen, using seven pitchers in their eighth extra-inning game this season. Milwaukee fell to 5-3 in games decided after the ninth."There were about four instances of balls we hit right on the nose that could have changed the complexion of the game, but we hit them right at people," Milwaukee manager Ned Yost said. "That's what happens when you're struggling to score runs. You just can't find those holes."Milwaukee took the lead in the first when Corey Hart's sacrifice fly scored Rickie Weeks from third, but Florida countered with two runs off Brewers starter Manny Parra in the sixth.Josh Willingham walked with one out and scored from first on Jorge Cantu's double, after left-fielder Braun missed shortstop J.J. Hardy with the cut off throw. Helms followed with a single, scoring Cantu and giving Florida a 2-1 lead.Bill Hall tied the score at 2 when he hit a one-out homer, his seventh of the year, off Taylor Tankersley in the seventh.Florida starter Ricky Nolasco pitched five innings, giving up one run on two hits. He walked four, struck out two and hit a batter.Parra wound up going 5 1/3 innings for Milwaukee, giving up two runs on six hits. He walked three and struck out three.
After the game, the Brewers optioned RHP Dave Bush to Triple-A Nashville. The move will allow the team to activate CF Mike Cameron on Tuesday, when he comes off a 25-game suspension for testing positive twice for a banned stimulant. ... Jacobs missed the game with a sprained finger. He is day to day. ... Brewers RHP Guillermo Mota pitched the eighth, his 500th game in the majors.