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Gallardo’s gem gives Crew win over Cubs

September 13, 2010

MILWAUKEE — With his command issues worked out, Yovani Gallardo has looked more like a staff ace again over his last two starts. Fortunately for the Brewers, his abilities at the plate haven’t escaped him, either.

With the Brewers’ recent offensive struggles continuing on Sunday afternoon, Gallardo took things into his own hands.

Gallardo delivered his second straight strong start and scored the game’s first run, in the fifth inning, and the Brewers won, 2-0, over the Cubs to avoid the three-game sweep.

“It all starts with locating the fastball,” Gallardo said. “I was able to do that tonight and throw my offspeed for strikes, and everything worked out.”

In tossing seven scoreless innings, Gallardo (12-7) allowed just four hits and three walks while recording five strikeouts. He picked up his first win since Aug. 8, against the Astros, while not allowing a run for the first time since July 22 at Pittsburgh.

Leading off the bottom of the fifth, Gallardo doubled to the gap in right-center field, setting up the Brewers’ best scoring opportunity of the day. Two outs later, left fielder Ryan Braun delivered the run from second base with a double of his own.

Braun’s double snapped a 22-inning scoreless streak for the Brewers. In the eighth, third baseman Casey McGehee added an insurance run with a solo home run, his 21st of the season.

“Our pitchers have really been throwing the ball well for the last couple of weeks, so it’s nice to finally pick somebody up,” Braun said.

After being shut out in the first two games of the series by Cubs starters Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster, the Brewers finished the series with just two runs, the first off Casey Coleman, the other off reliever Thomas Diamond.

Before the doubles by Gallardo and Braun, the Brewers had opportunities in the first, second and third innings but could not capitalize. Their biggest chance came in the first, with Corey Hart and Braun on first and third and only one out, but Prince Fielder grounded into an inning-ending double play.

In the second inning, Lorenzo Cain was stranded after a one-out single, and in the third, McGehee grounded into a fielder’s choice, stranding the bases loaded.

“It’s been interesting,” said manager Ken Macha, reverting to his favorite adjective. “Two runs. That’s a little like the San Diego series [from April 29 to May 2]. We scored two runs there and won one out of four. We got two runs here. We played three games, and somebody was shut out in every one of them.”

Coleman was nearly as impressive as Zambrano and Dempster, tossing six strong innings while allowing just the one run in the fifth on five hits with three strikeouts.

Gallardo’s outing was his second straight of seven innings or more and four hits or fewer. The last time he went seven innings without allowing a run was on June 24, when he tossed a five-hit shutout against the Twins.

The performance also was his best since coming off the disabled list on July 22 following an oblique strain, an injury he sustained on July 4. Though he admitted that his success begins with locating his fastball, it was his offspeed stuff made the difference.

“Gallardo’s tough. You have to give him his due,” said Cubs manager Mike Quade. “You don’t want to be behind on him — he’s got a devastating curveball. His breaking ball is very tough. He didn’t make many mistakes, and we didn’t have many opportunities to capitalize on them.”

Before his injury, Gallardo was 8-4 with a 2.58 ERA, allowing 32 earned runs in 111 2/3 innings pitched. Opponents were hitting just .224 against him, as he struck out 122 batters and allowed 48 walks.

In his first eight starts following the injury, he went 3-3 with a 7.23 ERA, allowing 34 earned runs over 42 1/3 innings. Opponents batted .314 with a .875 OPS against him over that stretch, though he recorded 49 strikeouts against just 17 walks.

In his last two starts, he has given up just two runs on eight hits and five walks over 14 innings, for a 1.29 ERA with 10 strikeouts.

According to Macha, though, the change has had more to do with location than any aftereffects of the oblique injury.

One thing that’s remained consistent throughout is Gallardo’s offensive prowess. Entering the game, he was batting .259 with four home runs and eight RBIs. He boosted that average to .268 with his double, one of his many big hits on the season.

“He’s been unbelievable. His whole time in the Major Leagues, he’s really swung the bat well,” Braun said. “I think he deserves the Silver Slugger this year for a pitcher. I’m serious.

“When you have him in the lineup, it’s like having an extra weapon. It’s like having a DH when you’re playing in an American League ballpark. He’s that good. He’s a tough out, he drives the ball and he has good at-bats.”

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