Brewers' four-game win streak snapped in extras
Gallardo has quality start, but 11 men are left stranded
MILWAUKEE -- Yovani Gallardo continued his string of quality starts, but Brewers hitters left him stranded.
An offense that has scored in bunches on the road is sputtering at hitter-friendly Miller Park, where Brewers batters went hitless in nine at-bats with runners in scoring position Tuesday on the way to a 12-inning, 2-1 loss to the Padres.
Gallardo allowed a run in seven innings for his fifth quality start -- six or more innings, three or fewer earned runs -- in as many outings. Three Brewers relievers -- including losing pitcher Alfredo Figaro, who was in his third inning when San Diego's Chase Headley hit the go-ahead home run -- provided efficient relief. All that was missing was the one clutch hit that the Brewers have been getting on the road.
"It takes a lot to keep the lineup that we have to one run," Gallardo said. "As far as being a pitcher, we know the guys can hit. We know the guys are going to hit. You just have to keep us in the ballgame and wait for that to happen."
The Brewers are still have the best record in baseball at 15-6, but that includes a 9-1 record on the road while scoring a Major League-best six runs per game. At home, the Brewers are averaging just shy of 2.4 runs per game.
Opposing pitching has played a part. Three of the Brewers' four opponents at Miller Park -- Atlanta, St. Louis and San Diego -- are among the top six the National League ERAs. Milwaukee is in that group, too.
"It's a good hitter's park," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "We'll hit here."
Gallardo was the standout on a long night. By holding the Padres to one run on five hits in a season-high seven innings, the right-hander lowered his ERA to 1.42. That's the best ERA in a five-man Brewers starting rotation that features four pitchers below 3.00.
The only Padres run against him came in the fifth inning, when the Padres tore a page from the Brewers' own playbook by executing a safety squeeze with pitcher Ian Kennedy at the plate. Gallardo bobbled the ball as he tried to flip it home.
"I think I would have been able to get him there at home, but it hit the palm of my hand and kind of bounced off," Gallardo said. "I was a little frustrated about that, but if you have runners on, it was big just giving up that one run. It could have easily gotten away. It could have been a huge inning." He escaped by retiring Everth Cabrera on a called strikeout and Will Venable on a line drive that struck Gallardo's right leg. Gallardo threw to first base in time for the out and remained in the game for two more innings after that.
"It got the side of my knee, a little bit towards my quad," Gallardo said. "If I was going to get hit, it was the right spot to get hit on. I was still able to go out there and finish those innings."
Milwaukee tied the game in the bottom of the fifth against Kennedy, who briefly called for an athletic trainer when his right calf cramped on ball 2 to Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett. Kennedy remained in the game, and three pitches later grooved a fastball that Gennett hit for a solo home run.
"I kind of babied a couple of pitches to Gennett, so I'm kind of mad at myself for that," Kennedy said.
It was Gennett's first homer of the season, and the only blemish on Kennedy's strange pitching line. He allowed one run on four hits in six odd innings, throwing 73 pitches in the first three frames, and only 27 pitches in the next three. The Brewers left six men on base in the first three innings, including three in the third when Khris Davis was caught looking at strike 3.
"I think we had some good ABs off him, but didn't put enough good ABs in a row to make it hurt," Davis said. "He threw the ball well. We just didn't string them along."
Later in the game, the Brewers also stranded runners in scoring position in the ninth and 10th innings. Davis made the final out of the 10th when he flew out to center field with the winning run at second base. Two days earlier, his homer beat the Pirates in the 14th inning.
"I was excited for the opportunity again," Davis said. "I was just looking to put a good swing on it, and the swing was there. I got the pitch I wanted to hit. I just didn't get the barrel to it because it got in on my hands.
"These losses, they hurt, because you feel so good in so many of them."
The Brewers could feel good about Gallardo, whose strikeout rate is at the lowest point of his career but is off to his best start, at least in terms of ERA. In 2009, when Gallardo was 23 years old and coming back from knee injury, he was 3-1 with a 2.86 ERA through his first five starts while striking out 34 batters in his first 34 2/3 innings.
This year, he has 23 strikeouts in 31 2/3 innings, but his ERA is more than a run better. He has pitched at least six innings and surrendered two or fewer earned runs in all of his 2014 starts, including one run or fewer in three of them.
"I've just been consistent these starts that I've had so far," Gallardo said. "That was one of my main focuses in Spring Training, and I've been able to do that. It's a matter of keeping it going throughout the year."
Against the Padres, Gallardo succeeded by keeping the Padres out of the air. Sixteen of his 21 outs came via ground balls (13) or strikeouts, plus three flyouts and one runner picked off second base by Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Only one of Gallardo's outs after the second inning came in the air.
"That's the plan," Gallardo said. "I think for myself, that's important. It's going to keep your pitch count down when you get early swings form guys."