"I think I'm more excited now than I was before," said Gallardo (1-0), his hair caked with shaving cream courtesy of a prank-pulling teammate. "Hopefully, there's a lot more to come."
A majority of those 41,631 fans in attendance Monday sure hope so. Many were there for Little League night, a level of baseball from which Gallardo is not all that removed. He celebrated his 21st birthday during Spring Training, went 8-3 in 13 starts at Triple-A Nashville and led the Minor Leagues with 110 strikeouts, and on Monday became the first Brewers pitcher to win his Major League debut in a start since Chris Saenz beat the Cardinals in April 2003. Gallardo became the first Brewers pitcher to get a hit in his first career at-bat since Wes Obermueller in July of that season.
Wearing his uniform No. 49, owned previously in Milwaukee by Mexican countryman Teddy Higuera, and pitching in front of his wife, Patricia, and 22-month-old son, Yovani Jr., Gallardo was charged with three runs on just four hits in 6 1/3 innings. He walked three batters and struck out four on 102 pitches.
"I tried to stay as relaxed as possible during the whole day," Gallardo said. "As soon as I got done with [batting practice], I started to focus a little bit more. I was excited."
He had help. Prince Fielder hit his National League-leading 26th home run and Corey Hart also homered as the Brewers built a 5-1 lead, and all nine members of Milwaukee's starting lineup had a hit. Second baseman Rickie Weeks finished with two, hitting a pair of ground-rule doubles and driving in a run in his return from the disabled list.
Each of Milwaukee's first three runs scored with two outs, including Gallardo's RBI double in the second inning off Giants starter and losing pitcher Noah Lowry (6-6). It got dicey for the Brewers in the ninth inning, when closer Francisco Cordero struggled to locate his slider and faced a bases-loaded, one-out jam. But Cordero once again got a big strikeout just when he needed it, whiffing Randy Winn, then retired Ryan Klesko for his Major League-leading 26th save.
Cordero's escape act preserved the Brewers' sixth win in their last eight games. It also preserved the storyline.
"We got the win and I got the save for Gallardo," Cordero said. "In the sixth inning, seventh inning, I was thinking about it. If I came into the game, I was going to do my best because it's really important for a young kid when they come up to the big leagues and they pitch a great game, that they win it. It's get it out of the way on the first try."
Throughout a 31-pitch first inning, Gallardo looked the part of a kid making his Major League debut. Bengie Molina hit a two-out RBI single for a 1-0 Giants lead.
"I was a little nervous, because it was hot and thick on that field," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "I was a little nervous about the humidity getting to him. Then I remembered that he spent the summer in Nashville, Tenn. I thought he was probably more used to it than we are. It didn't seem to affect him."
Fielder's homer in the bottom of the inning gave the Brewers a lead, and Gallardo and catcher Johnny Estrada then settled in, retiring 15 of 17 Giants hitters from the second through the sixth innings.
"I think I had pretty good command of my fastball," said Gallardo, who sits in the low- to mid-90 mph range with that pitch. "My curveball, I was leaving it up in the zone, but when I needed to make a pitch, I was able to get it down and get some outs with it."
Pedro Feliz led off the seventh inning against Gallardo with a home run that wrapped around the left-field foul pole. Gallardo then retired Omar Vizquel thanks to a great defensive play by third baseman and former Triple-A Nashville teammate Ryan Braun, but walked Kevin Frandsen on four pitches and prompted a call to the bullpen. Pinch-hitter Ray Durham greeted right-hander Carlos Villanueva with a two-run homer, cutting the Brewers' lead to 5-4 and closing the book on Gallardo.
Villanueva escaped that inning without further damage, Derrick Turnbow pitched a scoreless eighth inning and Cordero took it from there. Like Cordero, Villanueva was glad to preserve his friend's phenomenal debut.
"I was waiting for him to come up and do that," said Villanueva. "I would have been surprised if he hadn't done good, honestly. It's the way he goes about it -- the same way I try to. It's not that we don't care, but if we know we can get it done, I guess it shows out there.
"Maybe people are surprised with how young he is to do that well. But that's something you either have or you don't. He showed he has it."
That same thought struck the skipper when he took the ball from Gallardo in the seventh inning and was joined on the mound by first baseman Fielder, second baseman Weeks, third baseman Braun and shortstop J.J. Hardy. The elder statesmen of that group are Hardy and Weeks, both 24.
"I was looking at all those kids and Prince goes, 'Man, he's cool. He's just nice and calm and cool,'" Yost said. "I said, 'Yeah, he's just like you guys. He's a stud.'"