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Gallardo's welcome home goes well

Fort Worth product works out of jams, allows two runs in 5 2/3 innings

ARLINGTON -- Pitching for the first time as a hometown favorite, Yovani Gallardo gave his family, friends and several thousand new acquaintances at Globe Life Park something to look forward to this season.

Gallardo, who grew up in nearby Fort Worth, earned his first victory as a Ranger with a solid outing in Texas' 6-2 win over the Astros on Saturday night. He frequently dominated hitters on his way to seven strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings, and though he allowed eight hits, he minimized the damage and yielded only two earned runs, one of which scored when reliever Jon Edwards walked in a run.

"He really took control of the game for the most part," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "He threw strikes and had his slider and his changeup in play, and gave us the opportunity to get off the field quickly at times and get our hitters to the plate."

The ninth-year veteran acknowledged this start felt different than most.

"Growing up here in Fort Worth, this is one of the things that I wanted to do all my life as a young kid," Gallardo said. "Stepping out there for the first time, it was definitely a lot more adrenaline and excitement."

It was by no means a perfect outing, but it was a strong indicator that Gallardo is capable of looking the part of a top starter now that Yu Darvish and Derek Holland are lost due to injuries.

After being acquired from Milwaukee in a January trade, Gallardo took the reins as Opening Day starter for Texas in his sixth consecutive Game 1 start. But Gallardo was essentially supposed to be the No. 3 starter for the Rangers this season if Darvish and Holland pitched as well as the club expected them to.

Instead, Darvish is out for the season and Holland, after being injured in Friday's home opener, is out until mid-June at the earliest. That leaves a vacuum that Gallardo and fellow veteran starter Colby Lewis must fill in a rotation that will probably have some young, inexperienced arms at the back end in the near future.

"We're a close staff and we have to keep going out there and competing," Gallardo said. "The five guys that we have in the rotation, we're up to the challenge."

Saturday, Gallardo retired the first seven batters in order and had better command than in his Opening Day start in Oakland, where he allowed four earned runs on six hits in four innings. Gallardo threw 61 strikes in 90 pitches Saturday after throwing 51 strikes in 89 pitches in his previous start.

"Overall, my command was just good the whole game," Gallardo said Saturday.

Perhaps most important, Gallardo got out of trouble almost as soon as he got in it in two pivotal sequences in the third and fourth innings, when he loaded the bases and put men on first and third before getting out of each frame without letting any of those runners score.

"I think I made pitches whenever I had to," Gallardo said.

Gallardo spent his youth pitching less than 20 miles west of Arlington. He was a standout at Fort Worth's Trimble Tech High School and was drafted in the second round in 2004 by the Brewers. A large contingent of supporters, relatives and old friends were on hand to see Gallardo's first outing at Globe Life Park.

"I enjoyed every second of it, that's for sure," Gallardo said, "just to step out on the field and get that first start here at home."

Dave Sessions is a contributor to
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