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Gallardo tosses five-hitter to cap sweep

June 25, 2010

MILWAUKEE — Through 5 1/3 innings on Thursday, Yovani Gallardo was perfect. After nine innings, the Brewers ace had turned in the best pitching performance of his career.

Gallardo (7-3) even had two hits of his own before allowing any Thursday as the Brewers beat the Twins, 5-0, to complete a three-game sweep at Miller Park. It was the first Milwaukee sweep of Minnesota since 1996, and the first one at home since 1995.

Entering the sixth, Gallardo was four innings away from becoming the third pitcher in the Majors this season and the first in Brewers history to toss a perfecto. Two batters later, an opposite-field single to right by Twins catcher Drew Butera broke up the perfect game.

In the end, Gallardo still tossed his third career complete game and second career shutout while tying his career high with 12 strikeouts. Gallardo, who tossed 122 pitches, gave up just five hits and did not walk a batter for the first time since April 24, 2009, at Houston.

“That was a pretty awesome display of pitching today,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “No walks, so that’s an indication what his command was. Twelve strikeouts, only five hits. Pretty awesome. And on top of that, he starts the [four-run, third-inning] rally with a double.”

Scoring runs in his at-bats in the third and fourth, Gallardo helped the Brewers provide more than enough offense against Twins starter Nick Blackburn (6-5), who lasted just 3 2/3 innings, surrendering five runs on five hits, walking three and striking out two.

Gallardo’s one-out double in the third led to a four-run inning for the Brewers, featuring two-run home runs by Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder.

“We played good baseball today,” Gallardo said. “We were able to get some runs up there early and get some big hits.

“I’m just going up there trying to help myself out and get on base.”

Amid the excitement of Gallardo’s outing, second baseman Weeks extended his hitting streak to six games with a two-run home run — his 12th of the season — in the third while adding a walk and single in the fourth and sixth innings.

Fielder followed Weeks’ home run with a two-run blast of his own two batters later, his 14th of the season. Despite entering the game batting just a combined 2-for-13 against Blackburn, Fielder and Weeks took advantage of some mistakes by the Minnesota righty.

Macha said he planned to ask bench coach Willie Randolph after the sixth inning if he’d seen a perfect game in his career, but that was before Butera’s single broke up the bid for perfection.

While Gallardo said it was too early to think about it, Fielder acknowledged that it was easy to realize what was going on.

“I don’t know about the perfect game, but you look up there [at the scoreboard] and you saw no hits,” Fielder said. “You knew he was doing well. So, I just wanted him to keep it up regardless of what happens. I just wanted him to keep throwing like he was.”

Though Gallardo allowed five hits over the final four innings, he continued to impress. After striking out just five batters through five innings, Gallardo tallied seven strikeouts in the last four. Nine of Gallardo’s 12 strikeouts came over the final five innings.

Gallardo recorded his eighth career double-digit strikeout performance and his fifth of the season. The last time Gallardo had 12 strikeouts in a game was July 1, 2009.

Over his past six starts, Gallardo has allowed six earned runs on 29 hits in 44 innings of work. Gallardo’s ERA over that stretch is just 1.23, while he’s averaged one earned run on just under five hits per game.

“My command is getting a lot better,” Gallardo said of his recent success. “I’m able to throw my curveball for strikes, slider, changeup, and just mix everything in. … It makes a huge difference.”

Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, who was the only batter to hit safely twice in the game for Minnesota, was impressed by what he saw from Gallardo.

“He was definitely tough,” Morneau said. “He’s got a lot of late life on his fastball. The breaking ball is pretty good, [but] I think his best pitch is the fastball. That sets up everything else. It’s hard enough where you can’t just look offspeed and catch up to it. It’s pretty good.”

The Brewers’ sweep was their first of three or more games against the Twins since May 17-20, 1996, at the Metrodome and the first in Milwaukee since Aug. 24-27, 1995, at County Stadium.

Additionally, the club matched a season high with four consecutive victories, which it has done once previously in 2010, when it took the series finale at Washington and swept the Pirates in Pittsburgh from April 18-22.

Milwaukee also earned its third sweep of the season and its first at home. With six more home games to follow and 13 in their next 17 overall, the Brewers appear poised to make a run at getting back to the .500 mark.

“It’s big for us,” Gallardo said of the sweep. “We’ve got a great team here. It’s just a matter of getting things together, and we showed that these three games here at home. Hopefully we can continue it.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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