The last time Yovani Gallardo walked off the mound at Wrigley Field his frustrating season was about to take him to the disabled list. Back at the scene Sunday, Gallardo can only look back at the hamstring injury as the turning point in his season.
Gallardo allowed just a solo home run over seven innings in Milwaukee's 3-1 victory over the Cubs, lowering his ERA in his five starts since returning from the disabled list to 1.35.
"Yeah, obviously last time I was here it wasn't a good day," Gallardo said. "I just felt good. I was able to keep the ball down for the most part. I felt like I had a pretty good slider working today, too, to both sides of the plate."
At the time of the injury, Gallardo was in the midst of the most disappointing season of his career. The two weeks off seems to have rejuvenated the right-hander, as Gallardo has been much sharper with his command and much more efficient with his pitches.
He's now worked seven innings in each of his last three starts, allowing just five earned runs over his last five starts, including four outings against contending teams.
"His command is really good," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "He has life on all of his pitches. It's hard to explain sometimes what happens with the hitter also. Sometimes it takes one good outing and they get it right back again.
"Yo has been so good for so long that we knew he was going to get it together sometime. Maybe it gave him a little breather, I don't know. But he's been really good. That was an outstanding game again."
Gallardo's only blemish Sunday was a solo home run allowed to Cubs rookie Junior Lake leading off the bottom of the fifth inning. After that, Gallardo didn't allow another runner over the next three innings.
"I've been feeling good," Gallardo said. "That's the main thing, just being consistent. The year obviously hasn't gone the way I wanted to, but coming off the DL, it kind of refreshes the mental side a little bit more than anything. So you just go out there and locate."
The one run held up for the Cubs until the Brewers broke through with three runs in the top of the seventh inning. Aramis Ramirez doubled with one out and moved up to third on a base hit to right from Carlos Gomez.
Gomez was able to advance to second on the throw, setting up a big situation with one out. Cubs manager Dale Sveum turned to left-hander James Russell, leading to Roenicke pinch hitting the right-handed hitting Jeff Bianchi for lefty Scooter Gennett.
Bianchi made the decision look brilliant as he hit a ground-ball back up the middle for a two-run single to put the Brewers up 2-1. Gallardo helped his cause with a two-out RBI single in the inning, giving Milwaukee a big insurance run.
"I was trying to be ready for a pitch out over the plate and be aggressive and make good contact," Bianchi said. "I know the wind is swirling in today so I was trying to stay out of the air and hit a line drive through the infield. He left a fastball out over the plate after I missed a first-pitch slider. I was able to drive it up the middle to score two runs."
The victory clinched the season series over the Cubs for the Brewers with four games still left to be played between the two teams. Milwaukee has won 30 of its last 41 against Chicago and hasn't lost a series on the road since July 26-28 in Colorado.
But most importantly, Gallardo is back on track. His season ERA was at 4.91 when he went on the disabled list July 31, but his five quality starts have lowered his ERA to 4.18. Likely to have three starts left this season, Gallardo now has a chance to continue his run of finishing each season with an ERA under 4.00.
The Brewers will need Gallardo to be this pitcher next season if they hope to bounce back, and he's at least shown recently he can be a consistent member of the rotation again. Gallardo still sees it as very important for him to close his season out strong.
"Especially when you had a tough start to begin with," Gallardo said. "You try to get the positives. Ever since I came off the DL, my main thing has been to give the team a chance to win and be consistent each time out. If you're able to do that, things are going to work out well."
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