MILWAUKEE (AP) Yovani Gallardo signed a contract extension with the Milwaukee Brewers earlier in the week. The St. Louis Cardinals were the ones cashing in Saturday.
And at least for an afternoon, it was the Cardinals’ Jaime Garcia who looked like the up-and-coming ace.
Yadier Molina hit a three-run homer and Gallardo struggled two days after getting a big raise from the Brewers, giving up six runs in five innings in the Cardinals’ 7-1 victory.
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“I didn’t feel any extra pressure,” Gallardo said. “I mean, I felt pretty good out there. I had all my pitches and was throwing them for strikes. Just that one pitch (to Molina) turns the whole ballgame around.”
Maybe the new contract – a $30.1 million, five-year deal that could be worth $42.5 million over six seasons – didn’t get to Gallardo (0-2). But the Cardinals sure did, with Albert Pujols also hitting a two-run single.
Now St. Louis will go for a three-game sweep of their NL Central rivals Sunday night, with Chris Carpenter facing Milwaukee’s big offseason addition, Randy Wolf.
“It’s very important to win the series and tomorrow we have a chance to sweep them,” Molina said. “We have Carp on the mound and everybody knows Carp, he’s a great pitcher.”
But not everybody knows Garcia (1-0), who was sharp in his debut as the Cardinals’ No. 5 starter, giving up a run and four hits in six innings.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said Garcia got some help from Molina, his catcher.
“They are one of the better teams against left-hand pitching and he was outstanding against them,” La Russa said. “He made a lot of good pitches. He came out of his delivery once in a great while. ‘Yaddy’ tweaked him and got back in it.”
Brewers sluggers Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder went a combined 0-for-8, including three strikeouts by Fielder.
Why was Garcia so effective?
“I don’t know,” Fielder said. “He just got us out. I mean, he wasn’t anything different than what everybody else throws. We just didn’t get the job done.”
It was the second career start for Garcia, who was limited to a handful of minor league outings last season after having Tommy John surgery in September 2008. Garcia earned the Cardinals’ No. 5 spot in spring training.
“People ask me about nerves and (pitching my) first game in a while,” Garcia said. “But really when I go out there, it’s, ‘Just don’t try to do too much. Keep it simple.'”
He held the Brewers scoreless with only two hits through the first five innings, then gave up a double to Casey McGehee and RBI single to Corey Hart in the sixth.
“If he was nervous, it didn’t show,” Molina said. “I’m pretty sure he was, but seeing him calm like that and the way he was today, that was impressive.”
Brewers manager Ken Macha didn’t think Gallardo threw the ball poorly, but the manager acknowledged that the talented 24-year-old tends to get “into a little bit of a rut” during games.
“It’s something we’re going to have to look at,” Macha said.
Gallardo was roughed up in the second and fifth innings, retiring 10 straight batters in between. La Russa considered Saturday’s outing an anomaly.
“You are not going to make a living scoring a lot of runs off of him,” La Russa said.
After forcing three quick groundouts in the first inning, Gallardo got into trouble right away in the second.
He allowed a single to Matt Holliday and walked Colby Rasmus. Holliday scored on a single by Ryan Ludwick, and Rasmus went to third base on a wide throw home that resulted in an error on Braun.
Molina – who hit a grand slam on opening day, the first of his career – then hit his second home run of the season, putting a 1-0 fastball into the left field stands for a 4-0 Cardinals lead.
Gallardo settled down before struggling with his control again in the fifth.
Gallardo walked Garcia, then Skip Schumaker lined a ball into left field – and seemed to surprise Braun by streaking to second base as the left fielder threw to third. Gallardo struck out Felipe Lopez, but Pujols singled sharply to score Garcia and Schumaker and give the Cardinals a 6-0 lead.
Claudio Vargas replaced Gallardo to start the sixth, and Rasmus smacked Vargas’ first pitch into the second deck in right field.
NOTES: Hart, formerly the Brewers’ regular right fielder, started his second game of the season and had two hits. Veteran Jim Edmonds has started the other three. … Garcia’s first major league start came July 20, 2008, against San Diego. … Brewers CF Carlos Gomez fouled a ball off his foot in the third inning but remained in the game.