By Nathan Petrashek
Back in February, fellow CCC writer Ryan Smith and I wrote dueling articles examining Milwaukee’s pair of aces, Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke. My choice, if you’re twisting my arm, was Gallardo, in part based on his historical performance in clutch games – for example, his first home start of 2011, a complete game shutout, and three outstanding postseason appearances in 2008 and 2011 (we’ll give him a pass on his first-inning blowup in the NLCS).
Gallardo lived up to that reputation in Milwaukee’s improbable run in August and September. Over 65 innings and 10 starts before last night, Gallardo pitched to a 2.91 era with 66 strikeouts, going 7-0. Gallardo tossed at least 7 innings in all of his August starts, dropping his era to a season-best 3.52 at the end of the month. After faltering in his first September start, Gallardo pitched quality starts in his next three games, and narrowly missed his fourth by an inning. The Brewers won all 10 of Gallardo’s August and September starts, so Gallardo was crucial to their 33-20 record in those months.
Unfortunately, the Brewers’ backs were to the wall last night. After dropping games in Washington and Cincinnati and pushing themselves four games back of the final wild card slot, the team was no doubt looking forward to coming home for a three-game set against cellar-dwelling Houston. For Gallardo, there was no bigger stage in 2012 than last night’s romp under the Miller Park lights.
And Gallardo finally faltered in the clutch.
Things started off shaky, with Gallardo working around a walk and needing 22 pitches to get out of the first inning. Another walk would come around to score in the second. Gallardo’s defense – specifically shortstop Jean Segura – failed him in the fourth, but Gallardo had no one to blame for the back-to-back dingers he served up in the fifth. Gallardo’s final line: 6 ip, 8 h, 3 bb, 5 r (4 er), and perhaps the most significant “L” of the season.