"I like hitting," Gallardo said, his big smile saying more than his understated words. "Every time I get the opportunity in batting practice to take some swings, I'm always the first one out there. You can ask [first-base coach] Eddie Sedar. Coming up through high school, playing in select ball, I took it very seriously. I enjoy hitting, period."
And why not, when you have only one fewer home run this season than Brewers sluggers Prince Fielder, Bill Hall, J.J. Hardy and Corey Hart, each of whom is sitting on three? Both of Gallardo's homers this season have won games. His three-run shot off San Francisco's Randy Johnson gave the Brewers a 4-2 win in the second game of the season.
When he hit a Snell slider that hung high in the strike zone and spun toward the plate, Gallardo set a Brewers record for a pitcher with his fourth career home run. The team has only been playing in the National League since 1998.
"I called it," said reliever Carlos Villanueva, Gallardo's closest friend on the team and the only other Brewers pitcher to work Wednesday. Villanueva pitched a perfect ninth inning for the save while Milwaukee rested recently-activated Trevor Hoffman.
Yo, what a game!
|Yovani Gallardo's seventh-inning home run marks the first time a Brewers pitcher hit a home run as the only run scored in a victory. All told, Milwaukee has had 16 games in which a home run was the only run in a victory.|
|April 29, 2009||Y. Gallardo||7th||vs. Pit.|
|Sept. 20, 2006||G. Jenkins||9th||vs. Stl.|
|July 5, 2004||C. Counsel||1st||vs. Chi.|
|July 30, 1999||Alex Ochoa||2nd||vs. Mon.|
|June 16, 1997||J. Burnitz||9th||vs. Stl.|
|April 16, 1994||T. Ward||7th||at Sea.|
|June 4, 1988||E. Riles||6th||vs. Det.|
|Sept. 28, 1981||M. Brouhard||7th||vs. Cal.|
|Aug. 31, 1978||B. Oglivie||2nd||at Cle.|
|April 25, 1976||D. Money||1st||vs. Cal.|
|June 9, 1975||D. Porter||9th||at NYY|
|Aug. 19, 1974||George Scott||2nd||at Oak.|
|June 9, 1973||O. Brown||5th||at Cal.|
|Sept. 24, 1971||R. Auerbach||5th||at Oak.|
|July 15, 1971||D. May||9th||at NYY|
|May 1, 1971||Tommy Harper||8th||at NYY|
"It's not surprising anymore," Villanueva said. "He won it. He pitched eight innings and he hit the home run. All around, it was Yovani Gallardo Day."
Most of the postgame questions centered on his day at the plate, but Gallardo was more focused on his pitching. In fact, he was so engrossed in his duel with Snell that he didn't realize he had a perfect game in the bottom of the fifth inning. That bid ended when Andy LaRoche doubled to right-center field.
Gallardo escaped that mini-jam and another in the seventh inning before Villanueva notched his second save in the ninth. Macha opted to rest Hoffman after he worked the previous two nights, a move to protect a 41-year-old who is just days removed from the disabled list. The Hoffman/Villanueva decision was worth noting, but as Macha saw it, the postgame story was simple.
"This ought to be pretty fast," Macha said after settling into a seat in front of reporters. "Hitting: Gallardo. Pitching: Gallardo. Any questions?"
How about, "Will the Brewers lose another game to the Pirates?" Wednesday's win ran Milwaukee's winning streak against Pittsburgh to 15, the longest active streak in the Majors and the longest since Oakland beat Seattle in 15 straight games in 2006. The Brewers won't have to wait long to take a shot at extending that streak; they travel to Pittsburgh next week for a quick two-game series. Gallardo is lined up for the opener on Monday night.
The Brewers have also won 18 straight home
games over the Pirates, a streak that dates back more than two years. It's the longest such streak since the Orioles beat the Blue Jays in 19 straight games at Memorial Stadium from 1978-81. That mark will have to wait; Pittsburgh doesn't return to Miller Park until Aug. 28-30.
The Brewers' win spoiled an otherwise solid outing for Snell, who scattered four other hits in seven innings of work and stranded three runners in scoring position. His 131 pitches were the most in the Majors this season.
Gallardo was better. He didn't allow a baserunner until LaRoche laced a double with two outs in the fifth inning, though he escaped by striking out the side. Gallardo struck out his ninth batter to end the sixth inning, surpassing his career-high eight whiffs on June 24, 2007, against the Royals. He faced his only other jam in the seventh, when LaRoche popped up with two runners on base and two outs.
Adam LaRoche, the Pittsburgh first baseman and Andy's older brother, wasn't impressed by Gallardo.
"Go talk to the home-plate umpire," LaRoche said, referring to Marty Foster. "He seemed to like him. See what he has to say about it. Old Marty back there, he was on his game today."
Whether or not Foster's strike zone played a role, Gallardo's outing was quite a follow-up to a complete-game win in Houston five days earlier. Since allowing seven runs in an April 13 loss to the Reds, Gallardo has surrendered only two runs in 22 innings over three starts.
"I do have a concern with all this," Macha said. "A complete game and then 116 pitches today. ... We're only  games into it. But we really needed him to get that far in the game today with the amount of bullpen usage we've been having lately."
That usage included Hoffman, who returned from the disabled list over the weekend and made his Brewers debut on Monday night, then notched his first save with Milwaukee on Tuesday. Macha decided before the game that he wouldn't test Hoffman three days in a row.
"I can't put him out there in April three days in a row and have something happen," Macha said. "I didn't want to risk [an injury]."
Villanueva did the job, retiring all three hitters he faced without a ball hit out of the infield. Both of Villanueva's saves have closed out Gallardo wins.