Brewers’ concerns grow about Gallardo’s struggles
MILWAUKEE The 7-6, 10-inning loss the Milwaukee Brewers suffered at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday afternoon at Miller Park stung, no question.
What really had them concerned afterward, though, was yet another subpar start from staff ace Yovani Gallardo.
The right-hander gave up four first-inning runs, 10 hits and couldn’t get out of the sixth as his struggles since throwing a complete-game, two-hit shutout April 5 continued. His earned run average has ballooned to 5.70, highest among Milwaukee’s starters.
Over the long haul, this stretch might just turn out to be a blip on the radar screen for Gallardo, who’s proven to be money for Milwaukee since coming up midway through 2007 and, by all accounts, is perfectly healthy.
But for a talented team that’s already dropped its fifth game in six tries against the National League Central rival Reds, getting him back on track is going to be a top priority.
“I got more concerned today, because I didn’t think he had his stuff,” manager Ron Roenicke said. “That’s the first time, I think, he’s gone out there without good stuff. I think the last three outings were good stuff but no command. Today he didn’t have his command or his stuff.”
That was evident from the very first pitch he threw, which wound up being lined back up the middle for a base hit by Drew Stubbs. Jay Bruce then followed with a single to left-center, foiling the shift the Brewers had employed against the left-handed pull hitter, to bring up reigning NL most valuable player Joey Votto.
Votto worked the count to 3-1 against Gallardo before sending a 91-mph fastball 425 feet over the Brewers’ bullpen in left-center, giving Cincinnati a 3-0 lead before it had even recorded an out.
The Reds added another run on a Paul Janish sacrifice fly before Gallardo finally escaped from the inning after 29 pitches.
“It was tough,” Gallardo said. “The first two hitters, ground balls that find the hole, then I fell behind Votto, just got a pitch up in the zone and he drove it for a home run.”
From there, Gallardo settled down while the Brewers’ bats heated up. Milwaukee scored twice in the third on a two-run single by Carlos Gomez, then once more in the fourth and the fifth innings to tie the game at 4-4.
Cincinnati opened the sixth with a broken-bat single to left by Edgar Renteria and then a Stubbs walk. With Gallardo already having thrown 101 pitches and Bruce and Votto coming up, Roenicke made the call for the left-hander Mitch Stetter.
“I thought he did a great job of battling after the first inning, threw a lot of zeros up there,” Roenicke said of Gallardo.
Bruce followed by bunting the runners up a base and then Votto struck again, singling in Renteria. Roenicke then brought in right-hander Sean Green, who promptly gave up an RBI single to left-center to Brandon Phillips to make it 6-4.
The Brewers knotted it again in the bottom of the sixth, though, with Rickie Weeks driving in Jonathan Lucroy with a sacrifice fly to left. They had a golden opportunity in the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded and one out, but Cuban sensation Aroldis Chapman struck out Gomez and got Ryan Braun to ground out to end the threat.
It stayed that way until the top of the 10th when, after another 1-2-3 ninth from closer John Axford, Roenicke went with Sergio Mitre. The right-hander got Renteria to ground out to short to open the frame, but Stubbs then followed with a 405-foot homer to straightaway center on a 1-2 pitch to give the Reds the lead.
Former Brewers closer Francisco Cordero then shut the door by inducing three straight groundouts.
The loss left Milwaukee 1-2 against Cincinnati in the series—the Brewers’ first series loss at Miller Park this season.
“I think we’re battling,” Roenicke said. “We’re not giving up, scoring late in games, and that’s what we have to do.”
What they also have to do is get to the bottom of Gallardo’s struggles, even with Zack Greinke on schedule to join the rotation in the Brewers’ next road trip in Atlanta.
“I think (pitching coach) Rick (Kranitz) and I will have a conversation to see how he’s doing and find out what’s going on because you guys know this - this isn’t ‘Yo,’ ” Roenicke said. “I know all the clips I saw of him last year and what I saw in spring and the first two outings (this season), this is something I haven’t seen in him.”