Gamel backs Gallardo's gem in win
Rookie drives in three; starter tosses eight scoreless
ATLANTA -- Brewers manager Ken Macha seemingly had the Midas touch when he decided to play rookie Mat Gamel over the struggling Bill Hall on Friday against the Braves. Gamel drove in three runs, but starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo only needed one.
Gallardo had the Braves baffled all night, limiting Atlanta to just two hits over eight innings while striking out six, as the Brewers emerged with a 4-0 series-opening win. The 23-year-old surrendered a double to Martin Prado in the third and then didn't allow another hit until a Brian McCann double in the seventh.
"He was great," said Macha. "He's had some great outings this year, and this is another one."
Atlanta couldn't mount anything against Gallardo, who pitched into the eighth for the fourth time this season. Gallardo had command over his fastball and used his curveball effectively. He did walk four batters, but limited the damage by making key pitches when he needed to.
"It felt good out there," Gallardo said. "For the first couple of innings, my command was a little off because I was overthrowing a little bit. As the game went on, I was able to correct those things and keep the hitters off balance."
Gallardo's dominance didn't go unnoticed in the home dugout. Braves manager Bobby Cox has had the privilege of managing a few future Hall of Famers, but he was duly impressed by what he saw from Gallardo.
"He's got unbelievable breaking stuff, and he knows where the fastball is going," Cox said. "He really is a dominant-type pitcher. I can't complain."
Atlanta's biggest offensive threat came in the fourth, when it got a pair of two-out walks by McCann and Garret Anderson. However, Gallardo induced an inning-ending popup from Jeff Francoeur to end the threat. The Brewers' offense provided its pitcher with more than enough support.
Gamel knocked a two-run double to the gap in left-center in the fourth to drive in Prince Fielder and Mike Cameron to give the Brewers a 2-0 lead off of Atlanta starter Jair Jurrjens, who entered the game with a 2.59 ERA. He then drove in the Brewers' fourth run in the fifth with an RBI single, finishing 2-for-4 before giving way to Hall in the eighth as a defensive replacement.
"That's what got me here, my ability to hit the ball the other way," Gamel said. "I've been trying to not do too much. You can't go up there trying to do too much. It's a game based on failure as it is. You can't put too much pressure on yourself."
The Brewers were aided by shaky defense from Atlanta shortstop Yunel Escobar in the fifth. After J.J. Hardy singled to lead off the inning, Escobar made a tough diving stop on a ground ball in the hole off the bat of Ryan Braun. However, Escobar forced a throw to second to try to cut down Hardy and the throw sailed into right field, putting runners on second and third.
After an intentional walk to Fielder to load the bases, Escobar then bobbled an easy double-play ball that would have ended the inning. Hardy scored on the play and Braun scored a batter later on Gamel's RBI single.
"The second two runs, they kind of had an easy double-play chance," Macha said. "We only score two runs tonight if they turn that double play."
In just his seventh career start, Gamel validated Macha's decision to give him more of a look as a third-base option. With Hall hitting just .211, Macha is looking for more offensive production from the hot corner.
"It's nice that Gamel contributed there," Macha said. "We're looking for help on offense and balance in our lineup. As I said before the game, I don't think it's been a fair shake to see if he can hit big league pitching because of the guys that he's faced."
The Brewers hope they can ride the momentum of Friday's all-around victory into Saturday's game against the Braves. In addition to Gallardo's performance and Gamel's production, the Brewers had three other hitters record multi-hit games, and six starters got at least one hit.
If nothing else, Friday's win helps get rid of the sour taste that this week's series loss to the Marlins left in the team's mouth.
"It's a big win for us," Gallardo said. "Especially losing three out of four in Florida. It's big to come in here in the first game of the series and get a win."
Adam Rosenberg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.