Gallardo, Brewers shut out Red Sox, complete sweep
Ace continues club's run of strong starts with 6 2/3 scoreless innings
BOSTON -- All spring, Yovani Gallardo spoke with great urgency about bouncing back from a subpar 2013 season. Now he's backing up the big talk with big pitching.
Gallardo led the way to a 4-0 win and the Brewers' first three-game sweep of the Red Sox in more than two decades by scattering seven hits over 6 2/3 scoreless innings on a sunny Sunday at Fenway Park. The outing came six days after Gallardo worked six scoreless innings in an Opening Day victory over the Braves.
Milwaukee left fielder Khris Davis finished a sensational series with two more hits and two runs scored against Boston ace Jon Lester, and Aramis Ramirez improved to 6-for-8 with runners in scoring position when he drove in a final insurance run with an eighth-inning single. The visitors never trailed in the series and swept the Sox for the first time since October 1993, when Gallardo was in the second grade.
"It's always a good feeling to go out there and have good starts to start off the year, but you still have to keep going," said Gallardo, who is 2-0 for the first time. "You can't depend on two starts. You have to be consistent when you go out there every fifth day."
Brewers starters have been a model of consistency. They own a 1.64 ERA in six games, with no individual outings of more than three earned runs. Together, they are holding opponents to a .196 batting average (27-for-138).
Last year, the Brewers were the last team in the Majors to record a shutout. On Sunday, they became the second team in the Majors to win two shutouts this season, and the first in the National League.
"Hopefully this is a sign that it's going to be a great year on the mound," manager Ron Roenicke said. "I think it is going to be."
"That's the idea," Gallardo said. "We see the guy in front of us do a good job, and we want to do even better."
He struck out only three, but walked none and kept the baseball out of the air all afternoon. Only two of Gallardo's first 17 outs came via fly ball to the outfield; the others were strikeouts, groundouts or line drives on the infield, including Gallardo's own slick snare of a Daniel Nava comebacker for the first out of the third.
Only one of the Red Sox's first five hits went for extra bases. When Gallardo surrendered a double to Jackie Bradley Jr. and an infield single to David Ross in the seventh, Roenicke tapped the bullpen. Zach Duke and Tyler Thornburg finished the shutout, with Thornburg striking out three in two scoreless innings.
Through his first two starts, Gallardo has only seven strikeouts and two walks. He has been pitching to contact.
"I think he's changed the way he's pitched, especially since he first came up," Roenicke said. "When he first came up, he was high fastball, strikeout out of the zone. Now, everything he does is trying to be down. When you're down, it usually turns into ground balls.
"I think [Gallardo's strong start] is great. Your confidence goes up, you're in the right place. His rhythm is really good right now, and hopefully he can maintain that, and the bullpen can continue to come in and do the job."
Thornburg's two-inning stint was big for a team that needed to rest some key relievers Sunday. Brandon Kintzler and Will Smith had each pitched in four of the first five games and were deemed off-limits. Closer Francisco Rodriguez briefly began to throw when the Red Sox put a runner on base in the ninth inning, but never got hot.
The Brewers are off Monday before playing Philadelphia's home opener Tuesday afternoon.
"It's always nice to finish a game like that, especially when you feel like you're throwing the ball well," said Thornburg, who has allowed one run in his first four relief innings. "At the start of the game, we felt pretty confident about the way 'Yo' has been throwing."
Lester took a second straight tough-luck loss after holding the Brewers to four runs (two earned) on seven hits in 7 1/3 innings. After Mark Reynolds' RBI single and an error on Red Sox right fielder Nava gave Milwaukee a 2-0 lead in the second, Lester retired 16 batters in a row. Davis snapped that streak with a one-out double in the seventh and scored four batters later on Jeff Bianchi's one-out single. Ramirez added another RBI single in the eighth.
"[Lester's] cutter is outstanding, his curveball, you saw how many guys swung at it in the dirt," Roenicke said. "You don't pick it up."
The Red Sox had not been swept in an Interleague Series since losing three games in a row to the Nationals in June 2012 at Fenway Park, and did not lose more than three games in a row all of last season on the way to winning the World Series.
"Sometimes teams just kind of have your number right then," Sox catcher David Ross said of the Brewers. "Those guys did a good job, kept their pitches down, their pitchers did. They peppered that down-and-away strike zone, couldn't get anything up to drive. Guys hit some balls hard right at guys. It seemed like their center fielder was in the right spot every time we drove a ball in the gap.
"We're ready to see those guys go and get a Texas team in here that we're familiar with."
Picking up a sweep against the Sox was rare for Roenicke, who traveled to Boston often as an Angels coach from 2000-10 before taking a job with the Brewers.
"It's big," Roenicke said. "I think in 13 years coming here, maybe we won one other series. It's really difficult here."