MILWAUKEE -- Yovani Gallardo was outdueled again, and now the question becomes how much more the Brewers will let their young ace duel this season. San Francisco starter Matt Cain delivered seven-plus innings and got some slick defensive help to escape the eighth, and closer Brian Wilson recorded the final five outs of a 3-2 win over the Brewers in front of 30,254 fans. With the Brewers inching closer to elimination, it was the sparsest weekend crowd at Miller Park in nearly three years. Gallardo (12-11) took the loss despite his team-best 17th quality start this season while surpassing the 3,000-pitch threshold -- a dangerous place, according to club officials, for a 23-year-old pitcher who missed all but four regular-season starts last season because of a knee injury. Considering that the Brewers' elimination number -- the combination of Brewers losses and Cardinals wins that would bounce Milwaukee from postseason consideration -- fell to 13 pending the Cardinals' game later Saturday night, the team is considering whether to limit Gallardo's workload over the final four weeks of the season or just end his year entirely.
"We've talked about that," general manager Doug Melvin said Saturday afternoon. "We did push this start back, and it will happen again. ... We may [shut him down] later on, but I don't know if he would want to do that, either, or if his agent would want that if he has a chance to win 15 games." Gallardo was originally lined up to pitch Thursday in St. Louis, but he was bumped two extra days to rest up for the Giants. A team off-day in the coming week means Gallardo will get at least one extra day before his next start, and manager Ken Macha may give him more. "All I know is there will be another adjustment after this off-day [Thursday]," Macha said. "Maybe a couple of days. We'll see how that all works out." Macha then changed the subject, promising reporters that he would have more on the Gallardo front -- a "presentation" -- on Sunday morning. Gallardo was cruising in front of a national television audience on Saturday until he faced Juan Uribe with two outs in the fourth inning. Uribe worked the count full, then hammered a high changeup for a home run and a 1-0 lead. Nate Schierholtz followed with a single and scored on Aaron Rowand's double. Prince Fielder's Major League-leading 122nd RBI -- coming on a double off Cain in the bottom of the fourth -- brought the Brewers back within a run at 2-1. But Gallardo surrendered a leadoff double to Eugenio Velez in the fifth and Randy Winn delivered an important insurance run with a double. In six innings, Gallardo allowed three runs on six hits and three walks with six strikeouts. He is only eight strikeouts shy of becoming the fifth Brewers pitcher to reach 200, and is also approaching the 200-inning milestone. Gallardo needs 24 2/3 more innings to get there. He is not interested in ending the season early. "I don't think anybody would be OK with that," Gallardo said. "Hopefully, it doesn't come down to that. But you have to look at that I had five starts last year [including Game 1 of the National League Division Series]. We'll see how it goes from here." Gallardo did know one thing: Three thousand pitches sounded like a lot. In fact, Gallardo's 3,017 pitches rank fourth in the NL. "I'm going to stay strong and finish off strong," he said. With a pair of 3-2 wins, the Giants moved to within a Sunday win of a three-game sweep. According to Macha, the series has proven baseball's oldest mantra. "It's not about offense. It's about pitching," Macha said. "You just take a look at the top teams in the league in pitching, and they're all going to be in the playoffs or are in first place right now." Cain (13-4) put the team in position to win, but a defensive play may have sealed it. Reliever Jeremy Affeldt replaced Cain after Jason Kendall's leadoff double in the eighth, and pinch-hitter Jason Bourgeois reached when Affeldt threw the baseball into center field. Kendall scored on Felipe Lopez's infield hit, and with Wilson on to pitch for the Giants, Lopez advanced to third base on Ryan Braun's fielder's-choice grounder to put the tying run 90 feet from the plate. Up next was Fielder, who hit a bouncer up the middle, where second baseman Velez made a backhanded stop and flipped the baseball to the bag for a highlight-worthy final out. "I thought it was clearly going to go through," Macha said. "I think we all did," Brewers right fielder Jody Gerut said. Said Cain, who watched from the bench: "It was a sweet play." Gerut's single off Wilson in the ninth gave the Brewers another glimpse of hope, but J.J. Hardy struck out looking -- Macha opted not to use a left-handed pinch-hitter in that spot -- and Kendall flied out to end the game. Since the start of July, the Brewers are 4-12-2 in series play.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.