MILWAUKEE — His manager and his catcher noticed it. There was something different about Yovani Gallardo on Thursday afternoon.
Pitching for the first time since being charged with drunken driving early Tuesday morning, Gallardo was sharper than he’s been all season. The right-hander not only picked up his first win of 2013 by allowing just one run in six innings, but he also hit a two-run home run in the second inning to help the Brewers win 7-2 and earn their first sweep of the Giants since 2008.
Entering the game with an 0-1 record and a 6.61 ERA, Gallardo showed the form that convinced the Brewers to make him their Opening Day starter in each of the past four seasons.
“He had a little different of a mindset coming into the game,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “He went harder than he has in the other outings. That’s not to say that he’s not pitching hard in the other ones. He had a different look on his face today. He got after it.
“I think Yo had something to prove. He obviously wasn’t happy with what happened a couple days ago, and he was determined to go out there and do whatever he could to pitch well.”
Though Gallardo apologized to fans Tuesday afternoon for what he called a mistake, his real test came against the defending World Series champions roughly 58 hours after his arrest. One of the faces of the franchise admitted he was worried about the crowd’s reaction when he took the mound or came to the plate.
Milwaukee fans reacted positively and showed support to Gallardo, something he was grateful for after the game. But just because he pitched well, hit a home run and his team won didn’t make the start any easier.
“It’s tough, it’s definitely tough,” Gallardo said. “But you have to go out there and get the job done. There’s different things we all go through, different situations. We all have stuff off the field. Obviously something like that, it’s a big deal. It’s something serious. I apologize. I’m going to do everything possible so something like that never happens again.”
Off the field, Gallardo has been through a lot in the past 10 months. He left the club late last season to tend to his sick mother and then pitched with a lot on his mind. Eulalia Gallardo passed away Nov. 30 at age 46.
Roenicke knew Gallardo was under a tremendous amount of pressure Thursday afternoon, but the manager said earlier in the week he didn’t want this to be easy for his pitcher.
“I just went out there and focused and pitched,” Gallardo said. “There’s nothing I can do about that now. It happened. I just have to go out there and win ballgames. I don’t want to say I approached the game different. But with something like that you have to go out there and prove you are capable of getting over it.”
Gallardo made his rounds through the clubhouse over the course of the past couple of days, approaching teammates to talk. Some teammates approached him, as well, but it was evident the team had his back.
“Yo is really well liked here, and they know how hard it is on him and what he’s going through,” Roenicke said. “I think this is a tight bunch of guys, and they really pull for each other.”
Gallardo was concerned about whether his personal matter was becoming a distraction for the team.
“You don’t want the team to get distracted for something you did,” Gallardo said. “The guys, they are behind me. They don’t agree with it, but it happened so you just have to move forward.”
Though the start immediately after the incident is over, Gallardo doesn’t believe the scrutiny placed on him will lighten in subsequent games. He has put something out there for critics to jump on, and he knows that.
“It’s going to be like that,” Gallardo said. “It’s something that’s going to be there. I just have to go out there and stay focused.”