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MI@STL: Gallardo hurls eight scoreless frames

ST. LOUIS -- This was the Yovani Gallardo the Brewers had been longing to see again. Actually, this was even better.

Maybe it was the high socks that made the difference.

The 25-year-old right-hander sported a new look and flirted with history, snapping his own personal skid and the Brewers' seven-game losing streak in one badly needed, 4-0 win over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Saturday.

One day after the Cardinals' Jaime Garcia took a perfect game into the eighth inning, Gallardo turned the tables. He didn't allow a hit until St. Louis third baseman Daniel Descalso led off the bottom of the eighth with a ground-ball single to center field, and he finished with eight scoreless innings and his first win in two weeks.

"That's the guy I saw in [Spring Training] and the guy we saw in the first two games this year," manager Ron Roenicke said.

Gallardo threw 118 pitches, struck out six and worked around four walks in his bounceback outing. He beat the Braves with a two-hit shutout on April 5 but had gone 1-2 with an 8.89 ERA in his five starts prior to Saturday's gem.

He had some help, both on the field and off it. Outfielders Carlos Gomez and Mark Kotsay turned in terrific catches. Casey McGehee had three hits, including an RBI double that accounted for the game's only run through eight full innings. Fellow starters Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf formed a blockade to keep Roenicke from discussing Gallardo's ballooning pitch count in the seventh, and fellow right-hander Marco Estrada provided some pregame wardrobe assistance.

Given his pitching slump, Gallardo wanted to try a new look, and he scoured the clubhouse for some short pants. Estrada figured his would fit, so he offered them up.

"Marco's not getting his pants back," Gallardo said.

With Descalso's hit, left-hander Juan Nieves remains the only Brewers pitcher to complete a no-hitter. Nieves worked around five walks to blank the Orioles on April 15, 1987, at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium. Current Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum supplied the winning run with a fourth-inning homer in that game, and television analyst Bill Schroeder was Nieves' catcher.

Former Brewers catcher Jason Kendall used to say that Gallardo is the kind of pitcher who will win Cy Young Awards and throw multiple no-hitters after getting some big league seasoning. On Saturday he came awfully close to fulfilling one of those prophecies.

"Today he showed what kind of pitcher he is," the Brewers' current catcher, Jonathan Lucroy, said. "I really couldn't tell you [the difference]. He was throwing strikes, getting ahead, and his stuff was just nasty. It was Yovani Gallardo. That's who he is. That's what he does."

Unlike fellow Mexico native Garcia, who mowed through the Brewers' lineup on Friday night with routine play after routine play, Gallardo needed some help from his defense to keep his no-hit bid intact. Gomez made an outstanding catch for the second out of the first inning, leaping to snag Colby Rasmus' deep drive before crashing into the wall in right-center. In the fifth, right fielder Mark Kotsay made the play of the day, a grab along the foul line to take an extra-base hit from Tyler Greene.

Because there were two men on base, Greene's drive would have given the Cardinals a one-run lead.

"The way it was carrying, I didn't think he had a chance, and [Kotsay] made a great play," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "For us, on the negative side, that was the biggest play of the game."

"I watched it on video and saw how close, how nice of a play he made," Greene said. "That was a game-changing play right there."

Gallardo made a highlight-worthy play himself in the seventh inning after walking Lance Berkman for the second time. Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina followed with a hot shot back to the mound, but Gallardo fielded it and threw to shortstop Craig Counsell covering second base to initiate an inning-ending double play. Gallardo was at 104 pitches after that key twin-killing.

That's when Marcum and Wolf worked to keep their pitch-counting manager away, but it became a moot point when Descalso ended Gallardo's bid for history the following inning. Descalso reached for a down-and-away slider and grounded a single that just got past a diving Counsell.

"Counsell, he gave it all he's got," Gallardo said. "It kind of was in slow motion for me. I saw it [get through] by inches."

Gallardo took his near-miss at making history in stride.

"If a pitcher sits there and tells you he isn't thinking about it, I think it's not true," he said. "I was definitely thinking about it. Of course, it would have been great to achieve that, but most important is just getting a win."

"I was really excited," Lucroy said. "I was hoping we would pull it out, because it would be good for our team and our morale, but I'll take a win. This is just as good."

The slumping Brewers offense did not exactly break out against Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse, who allowed only one run on six hits in eight solid innings. But Milwaukee managed to score in the third inning, after Lohse walked Prince Fielder with two outs. McGehee followed with his second double in as many innings, a line drive to the gap in left-center.

Fielder chugged home, and there might have been a play at the plate had McGehee not rounded second base and prompted Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols to cut off the throw. McGehee was out, but not before Fielder scored for the one-run lead.

Gomez capped his outstanding afternoon with a two-run triple in the ninth inning, and Yuniesky Betancourt delivered a pinch-hit sacrifice fly for insurance.

John Axford breezed through the ninth to make a winner of Gallardo, who found a text message from former teammate Dave Bush waiting after the game.

"He said, 'Great game,' and some other stuff that I can't say," Gallardo said with a big smile. Comments