Gallardo strong, homers as Crew sweeps Giants

Gallardo strong, homers as Crew sweeps Giants

MILWAUKEE -- Amid a dreadful week off the field, Yovani Gallardo returned Thursday to the calm of the mound and, as it turned out, the comfort of the batter's box.

Back to work two days after he was cited for drunken driving, Gallardo pitched and slugged the Brewers to a 7-2 win over the Giants that completed a three-game sweep. He worked six quality innings, belted one of the Brewers' trio of two-run home runs off Giants ace Matt Cain and admitted afterward that this particular mid-April outing carried more import than most.

"I don't want to say I approached the game different, but with something like that, you have to go out there and prove that you're capable of getting over it," Gallardo said. "Go out there and focus. From here on out, that's the main thing -- go out there and win ballgames for the team."

He succeeded at that for the first time this season, homering along with Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy for the Brewers' fourth straight win. Milwaukee had not swept the Giants since taking three straight at AT&T Park in July 2008.

What a change from just four days earlier, when the Brewers were 2-8, riding a club-record scoreless streak and were three innings shy of being swept in St. Louis without scoring a run. Braun sparked a come-from-behind victory that afternoon, and the Brewers have not lost since, out-scoring, out-pitching and generally outplaying the reigning World Champions.

"Anytime you play that well in a series against a really good ballclub, it should build up a lot of confidence in what we're doing," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "Offensively, a really good series. Pitching, we really threw the ball well. Our bullpen threw the ball well. Some huge pluses in this series."

Until Thursday, the only one not enjoying the winning streak had been Gallardo, who was arrested in the wee hours of Tuesday after driving his black Ford F-150 erratically right past Miller Park. He apologized the next afternoon, and spent Tuesday and Wednesday having individual conversations about the incident with teammates, some of whom, Gallardo insinuated, were open about their disappointment.

On Thursday morning, Gallardo said, he "definitely" worried about the reaction he'd get from fans at Miller Park.

"It's a big deal. It's something serious," he said. "I apologize. I'm going to do everything possible, everything I have to do, so something like that won't ever happen again."

Said Lucroy, his catcher: "I could tell in the bullpen there was something different about him today."

By the time Gallardo threw his first pitch, the Brewers were behind their Opening Day starter, who announced his return to the mound by striking out Hunter Pence to end a scoreless first inning. It was the first of his six strikeouts, a modest season high, and propelled Gallardo to his first victory after he went 0-1 with a 6.61 ERA in his first three starts.

He went "harder" than usual, Roenicke observed, and an elevated pitch count kept Gallardo from working past the sixth. He allowed one Giants run on five hits and a walk, the only damage coming on Brandon Belt's fourth-inning sacrifice fly after the Brewers had built a seven-run lead.

The Brewers played home run derby in the early innings against Cain, who has started four games and seen the Giants lose all of them. Previously slumping left fielder Braun hit a flat slider for a two-run homer in the bottom of the first inning, Gallardo turned on an inside fastball for a two-run homer in the second and Lucroy hit a hanging curveball for a two-run homer in the third.

Surging Brewers first baseman Yuniesky Betancourt also drove in a run along the way, leaving Cain in a seven-run hole after three innings. He managed to get the Giants through the sixth, but he still finished with an ugly pitching line: Six innings, seven hits, seven earned runs, no walks and four strikeouts. Cain's ERA rose to 7.15.

"We had a hard time keeping the ball in the ballpark this series," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I will say, he gave us a nice effort. He regrouped and made a nice adjustment and pitched great the last three innings. When you have three two-run homers, it's hard to overcome."

"It didn't really matter what it was in those three innings, everything was coming back to the middle," Cain said. "It's just not really repeating the delivery and being consistent in making pitches. I have to find a way to do a better job of that. I've got to kind of keep taking small steps and doing the right things."

Cain owns a pair of World Series rings, but Gallardo has owned the head-to-head matchup. The two right-handers have squared off four times now, with Gallardo winning three and pitching to a 1.63 ERA vs. Cain's 6.58.

Gallardo's next start is scheduled for Tuesday in San Diego, and he said he would feel the same pressure to perform he was feeling Thursday. That feeling might linger all season, he said.

"The No. 1 thing I have to worry about now is going out there, staying focused to pitch and win some games," Gallardo said.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.