Yovani Gallardo comes back strong to out-duel Mat Latos

MILWAUKEE — It was hard to know what Yovani Gallardo was going to give the Milwaukee Brewers in his first start back from the disabled list, but even optimists couldn’t have expected the end result.

Gallardo allowed just three hits and walked only two batters in 6 1/3 scoreless innings, as he out-dueled Cincinnati’s Mat Latos in Milwaukee’s 2-0 win.

Following a 19-pitch first inning in which he ran the count full on all three batters he faced, Gallardo was sharp with his command and didn’t labor for the rest of the night.

“This was really good to see,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “To command the ball after being out like that, that’s pretty impressive.”

The Brewers were the last team in baseball to record a shutout this season, but now have a major league-leading 11 shutouts in their last 57 games.

On a normal night, Gallardo would have been allowed to at least work through the seventh inning, but Roenicke pulled him at 82 pitches after a one-out single in the sixth inning.

“There was a number in our minds and he was getting to it,” Roenicke said. “I really thought he threw the ball well. Even in the sixth inning, I thought he threw it really well. He gave up the ground ball for the base hit in the seventh, but I still thought he threw the ball well. It wasn’t a question whether Yo was not throwing the ball well, it was pitches.

“We were wondering whether to send him back out there for the seventh, and I talked to him about it. He still felt really good, Luc said he looked really good, so we let him go back out for that. But we knew we were going to be really short with him.”

Gallardo was fine with his manager’s decision to take it easy, as Saturday was his first start since July 30. The strained left hamstring kept Gallardo out for the minimum disabled list stint, but he hadn’t thrown over 90 pitches since July 20.

“Ron kind of talked to me before I went out there for the seventh inning,” Gallardo said. “I haven’t thrown that many pitches in two weeks. A bullpen is a bullpen, but there’s nothing like actually going out there and every pitch is at full strength or you are facing hitters.”

After striking out two in his 19-pitch first inning, Gallardo needed just 19 pitches to work through the second and third innings. In the end, it was one of his most efficient starts of the season.

“He kept the ball down, which is what he’s known for,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “We hit some balls hard off him but they had us played perfectly. They didn’t even have to move on most of them. You can’t control where the ball goes after you hit it.”

Gallardo’s slider was sharp Saturday, causing Cincinnati’s lineup to be off-balance all night long. While he didn’t have strikeout-stuff working, Gallardo induced a lot of outs early in the count, something he usually struggles with.

“His slider was probably his most effective pitch,” Reds third baseman Todd Frazier said. “It’s about the same speed as the fastball so you’ve got to pick one out and a lot of the times we were just getting the wrong pitch to hit.

“You’d see something and the next thing you know he’d throw a nasty one. He was working the pitches in-out, in-out, and you tip your cap to him. That’s all you can do.”

One of the more consistent pitchers in the National League over the past five seasons, Gallardo has struggled to hit a groove this year. For every good start there have been two bad ones. Saturday was just the beginning in an important final month for Gallardo, as the Brewers hope he can head into the offseason with momentum for next year.

“It’s very important,” Gallardo said. “It hasn’t been the year that I wanted to have, but that’s in the past. Just focus on this fresh start and today was a good step forward for the last month or month and a half of the season. However many starts I have, just go out there and finish off strong and be consistent.”

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