Gallardo forced to go off script against Rays

Gallardo forced to go off script against Rays

ARLINGTON -- Rangers pitcher Yovani Gallardo's slider was not working on a hot afternoon against the Rays on Sunday. That was evident after he gave up three runs in the first two innings. The absence of his slider prompted a conversation with catcher Bobby Wilson in the third inning.

"I just told him we need to mix in the curveball more," Gallardo said.

They did just that, and the in-game adjustment served Gallardo well in what was the pivotal moment of the Rangers' 5-3 victory. Gallardo earned the win despite giving up three runs in 5 1/3 innings on a season-high 11 hits, the most he's allowed in a game since 2012.

"Early on, it was obvious that Yovani was a two-pitch guy today," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "He had to make some adjustments but he kept their guys off balance and got the outs he needed."

The Rangers trailed, 3-2, after an inning and a half, but Delino DeShields tied the game with an RBI single in the second, Adrian Beltre put the Rangers ahead with a home run in the third and Ryan Strausborger made it 5-3 with his first Major League home run in the fourth.

That's where it stood in the fifth, when Gallardo got the biggest out of the afternoon. Gallardo started the inning by getting Evan Longoria on a grounder to shortstop. But James Loney and Logan Forsythe both singled, putting runners on first and second for Asdrubal Cabrera.

Cabrera has been the Rays' hottest hitter, with 29 hits in his last 59 at-bats (.492) since coming off the disabled list on July 28. As Gallardo got ready to face Cabrera, left-handed reliever Sam Freeman was warming up in the Rangers' bullpen.

"We wanted to be ready in case the inning didn't go the way we wanted it to," Banister said.

The battle went to a full count and Wilson called for the curve, Gallardo's third best pitch, behind the fastball and slider. He has only thrown it 11.7 percent of the time this season compared to 54.3 percent for the fastball and 27 percent for the slider. But it proved to be the right call by Wilson.

Gallardo threw a big curve that Cabrera chased in the dirt. It could have been ball four, loading the bases with one out, but Cabrera swung and missed as Wilson smothered it in the dirt.

"In that situation, you can't give in," Gallardo said. "You can't throw a 3-2 fastball down the middle and make it worse. Wilson called a curve, and he swung over it."

The rally fizzled as Gallardo struck out Desmond Jennings to end the inning.

"That was, I believe, the pitch of the day," Banister said. "That was a veteran guy who seemed to be in control of what he wanted to do and made a big pitch."

Gallardo left the game with one on and one out in the sixth but the quartet of Freeman, Keone Kela, Sam Dyson and Shawn Tolleson retired 11of 12 batters faced to close out the victory.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.