Gallardo, Hoffman put Brewers on new course
Starter strikes out 11, hits home run to end scoreless streak
SAN DIEGO -- It took a reversal of two recent trends for the Brewers to earn a victory on Saturday night.
The team had been shut out in back-to-back games Thursday and Friday, had not scored for 22 straight innings, and had lost four in a row and seven of eight.
Then there was closer Trevor Hoffman, who had blown consecutive save opportunities and had allowed at least one run in six of his nine appearances this season.
Both streaks are over, and Milwaukee got the win, 2-1, over San Diego in the third of a four-game set at PETCO Park.
The scoreless stretch came to an end in a somewhat unlikely scenario. Starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo led off the third inning with a solo home run, his first of the season and fifth of his career, to put the Brewers on the board after 24 innings without a run.
Gallardo (3-2) tossed seven strong innings and struck out a season-high 11 batters while giving up one run on six hits and walking two. The Brewers' Opening Day starter had some narrow escapes that proved crucial in a close game.
"My key tonight was that I was able to command my fastball," Gallardo said. "I was able to get ahead of hitters, which was my main focus for tonight."
The Padres' hitters put pressure on Gallardo in the second and third innings -- and pushed one run across in the third to even the score at one -- but 24-year-old right-hander limited the damage and worked out of jams in the sixth and seventh innings, largely with strikeouts in key situations.
"I just felt pretty good," Gallardo said. "I was able to get out of some jams whenever I needed to and make some good pitches. Like I said, I think fastball command was the key."
Manager Ken Macha applauded Gallardo's ability to buckle down when San Diego threatened.
"He made some very intense, clutch pitches to get out of those innings," Macha said.
Hoffman entered with a save situation at PETCO Park for the first time as a member of the visiting team since he left the Padres after the 2008 season. Given his recent struggles, he could not have performed any better, retiring all three batters he faced from the same mound on which he became baseball's all-time saves leader.
"I [pitched here] last year, but obviously not in a save situation," Hoffman said. "There's a lot more focus involved, and it's a little definitely different coming in from the other side."
Perhaps the familiarity was enough to help Hoffman turn around what had been a difficult stretch for him.
"That's the big thing," Hoffman said. "I've had a pretty [crummy] April, so it's nice to see the calendar turn over. In this situation, with what Yovani had done all night, battling and pitching his tail off for our ballclub. From a personal standpoint it was big, and from a team standpoint, we needed that win."
Rickie Weeks played an integral part in the win as well, belting a solo home run, his fourth, in the fifth inning against Padres starter Mat Latos (1-3). Weeks broke a 1-1 tie on a first-pitch fastball from the hard-throwing Latos, sending it 418 feet into the San Diego bullpen beyond the center-field wall.
"That's the thing, you've just got to bear down and get some pitches to hit," Weeks said. "I did that, but there were a couple of other times that we could've capitalized on some opportunities and we didn't do it. We're just going to keep coming out every day and try to get that accomplished."
Macha also took a positive from the 12 runners the Brewers left on base in the game, especially following the scoreless streak.
"I felt good that we were getting runners on after two shutouts in a row," Macha said. "If we keep doing that, we're going to score some runs."
The performance by the pitching staff, which included a scoreless eighth by LaTroy Hawkins, helped seal the first victory this season for Milwaukee when it has scored fewer than three runs. Macha noted the effect that result could have on the offense.
"I want the players to know we have pretty good pitching," Macha said. "I don't want them putting too much pressure on themselves to score so many runs every night."
Having put two trends behind them and earning a tough victory, the Brewers will now look to start some trends in the winning direction.
Tim Powers is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.