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Capuano picks up Gallardo as Crew wins

August 21, 2010

MILWAUKEE — As far as feel-good stories go, Chris Capuano’s comeback from a second Tommy John surgery ranks up there among the best of them. The Brewers lefty added another chapter on Friday night.

It was one of those nights at Miller Park, where nothing seems to go according to plan. It was also one of those starts for Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo, who was hurt by mistakes and struggled with his command.

Fortunately for Gallardo and the Brewers, they had a lefty in the bullpen ready to go. Capuano pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings, giving up just one walk while facing the minimum and retiring 10 of 11 batters faced as the Brewers defeated the Padres, 10-6.

With his stellar performance, Capuano made up for one of the shortest outings of the season for Gallardo. Capuano won at home for the first time since May 7, 2007, giving him the perfect belated birthday present, as the lefty celebrated his 32nd birthday on Thursday.

“It’s great to get a win anytime,” Capuano said. “We’ve been working on some stuff and today felt real good with the location and the different pitches. The arm strength feels like it’s starting to come back a little bit. It’s definitely a lot more fun out there pitching.”

On a wild night, the Brewers outslugged the Padres for their third straight win and fourth in five games. Third baseman Casey McGehee led the way, recording an RBI double and a three-run homer in his first two at-bats.

With the two hits, McGehee extended his franchise record streak to 11 hits in 11 straight home at-bats, shattering the previous mark of seven straight hits at home. After being unaware of the 9-for-9 against the Diamondbacks, was McGehee aware of the 11-for-11?

“Now I am,” McGehee answered. “That was nice for us to be able to have that kind of an offensive game, especially supporting Yovani, who’s pitched so well for us. For us to be able to pick him up one time, was really good.”

With a team ERA of 3.18, the Padres’ mark was 23 points lower than any other team in the Majors before Friday’s game. With that in mind, and Gallardo taking the hill for the Brewers, the formula for a pitchers’ duel certainly was there.

None of that seemed to matter, as from the outset, the game was nothing like anyone would have expected. Both starting pitchers, Gallardo and Wade LeBlanc, went just 3 1/3 innings, combining to allow 13 runs on 13 hits with six walks, four strikeouts and four home runs.

Recording just 10 outs to Capuano’s 11 outs, Gallardo surrendered six runs on six hits while walking five and recording just one strikeout.

In the first inning, Gallardo left two curveballs up, over the plate. Adrian Gonzalez and Chase Headley took advantage of those mistakes, sending them over the fence and giving the Padres an early 3-0 lead.

“He wasn’t as sharp as we have seen him before,” Headley said. “He wasn’t commanding his fastball and he left a few curveballs up. We did a good job coming out and getting on him early.”

After the Brewers answered with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the frame, Gallardo surrendered two more right back to the Padres. Milwaukee’s offense never gave up, though, as the Brewers scored in each of the next five innings.

In the third, it was McGehee’s three-run blast. An inning later, rookie catcher Jonathan Lucroy added a two-run shot, which proved to be the eventual game winner.

“They picked me up,” Gallardo said. “It just was one of those days for me. It got out of hand. They put up some runs in the first inning for me after I gave up three, and they kept battling. I give them a lot of props.”

Todd Coffey and Zach Braddock joined Capuano in shutting down the Padres offense, which recorded just one hit over the final 5 2/3 innings on Friday night.

Even with that, the story of the day was Capuano, who continues to progress in his return to the Major Leagues.

With the bases loaded in the fourth following back-to-back one-out walks, Brewers manager Ken Macha had seen enough of Gallardo, calling for Capuano. Entering Friday’s game, Capuano had a 4.44 ERA, while opposing hitters had been batting .289 against him with three home runs.

Add five of seven inherited runners having scored in those 15 appearances, and Capuano didn’t exactly seem like the ideal choice in such a pressure situation as the Brewers trailed 6-5 at the time. He performed admirably, stranding all three runners with a strikeout and a groundout to end the inning.

“Big crossroads there,” Macha said.

“Unbelievable,” Lucroy said. “That’s all you can ask out of a middle reliever: Come in and do something like that. He’s getting back to [the way he pitched before his second Tommy John surgery]. He knows exactly what he wants to do out there. It’s real easy to catch somebody like that.”

After the bullpen nearly blew Randy Wolf’s dominating performance on Wednesday, it was encouraging for the Brewers to see a reliever pick up the slack on an off night for their ace.

While Capuano would still like to see his name in the starting rotation again someday, Friday night’s win will suffice for now.

“It’s just a blessing to be healthy and feel good every day coming to the park,” Capuano said. “I would like to be starting, [but] the main thing is that I’m feeling healthy, my arm’s getting stronger and everything is feeling good.

“I’m just enjoying the opportunities I get to pitch right now.”

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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