Gallardo's pitching puts pressure aside
MILWAUKEE -- Winning a baseball game doesn't qualify as redemption for a drunken driving arrest. Weighed on the scale of public safety, the first thing doesn't quite stand up to the second.
Still, what Yovani Gallardo accomplished Thursday afternoon for the Milwaukee Brewers was at least a pretty good public-relations move. And from the baseball standpoint, it amounted to a big deal for his team.
In three previous starts this season, Gallardo, the nominal ace of the Milwaukee staff, was 0-1 with a 6.61 earned run average. Early Tuesday morning he was arrested for drunken driving after being seen driving erratically on Interstate 94 in the area of Miller Park. Two breath tests showed Gallardo had a blood-alcohol level of .22, nearly three times the legal limit in Wisconsin.
Gallardo was under intense pressure in his Thursday start against the San Francisco Giants. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said so. Gallardo himself said so. Imagine what would have occurred had Gallardo pitched poorly, if he had been, you'll pardon the expression, lit up by the Giants. After you get beyond the beer and bratwurst stereotypes, there really isn't a large body of Wisconsin public opinion in favor of drunken driving.
Another bad outing Thursday, and at least a segment of the Milwaukee baseball public would have turned on Gallardo; at the ballpark, online, on the call-in shows. You wouldn't have had to reach to find the unifying theme. Millionaire ballplayer. Can't pitch up to his tremendous ability, because he's out pounding it until closing time. Then he's endangering the rest of the populace by driving around in a sudsy haze. Where was his retinue, his posse, his associates, his hangers-on? Where were the guys who are supposed to take the wheel, and the blame, in a case like this?
Gallardo had apologized profusely for his transgressions in a statement made to members of the media Tuesday afternoon. "I just want to apologize to the whole organization and all the people in Milwaukee for my actions," he said. "It's not very easy. It's one of those things -- I truly am sorry. I'm going to make sure something like this never happens again."
But what Gallardo really needed was a solid performance in his Thursday outing to at least make the point that his lifestyle wasn't jeopardizing his career and his team's standing in the NL Central.
This he produced against the defending World Series champions. Not only did he limit the Giants to one run over six innings, he also provided a boost to the offense with a two-run home run in the second inning off San Francisco starter Matt Cain. It was no fluke -- Gallardo's 11th career home run.
It all added up to a 7-2 victory, a sweep of the series against the Giants and a four-game winning streak for the Brewers. All in all, it was the season's high point, not only for Gallardo, but for the entire team. The Brewers, who had lost eight of their first 10 games, had their best reasons of the young season to feel good about themselves.
It was no coincidence that this was Gallardo's best outing.
"He had a little different mindset coming into the game," Roenicke said. "He went harder than he went in the other outings. That's not to say that he's not going hard in the other ones, but he had a different look on his face today. Velocity was better. Cutter was good. And he got after it.
"I think Yo had something to prove. He obviously wasn't happy with what happened a few days ago, and he was determined to go out there and do whatever he could to pitch well. And he did."
"It's tough, it's definitely tough, but yet again, you have to go out there and get the job done," Gallardo said, and then added regarding the Tuesday morning incident: "Obviously, something like that, it's a big deal, it's something serious. I apologize. I'm going to do everything possible, everything I have to do, so that something like that won't ever happen again."
Gallardo said that he was encouraged by the support of his teammates. He had made his way around the clubhouse talking to players about the incident, apologizing again, telling them he did not want this to become a distraction.
"The guys on this team, they know what kind of person I am," Gallardo said. "Obviously, we all know what happened wasn't the brightest thing, but the guys in here know me. They're behind me.
"I was [under pressure] to be honest, I definitely was. But yet again, there's been other situations where I've been under pressure and I've been able to handle it. I just stayed focused. I couldn't worry about anything else other than going out there and winning the ballgame."
Gallardo said that he was concerned about what reaction he would get from the fans. The reaction wasn't much different than usual. He was not booed noticeably when introduced, and when he hit the home run, he was in complete public favor again.
Gallardo has won 60 games over the past four seasons for the Brewers, 33 of them in the past two years. He's been a focal point of the Brewers' success. But he knows that with the arrest, the pressure on him will not cease after one start.
"Honestly, I think so," he said when asked if the pressure would continue. "It's something that's going to be there. I've just got to go out there and stay focused."
If Yovani Gallardo learned a lesson from all this, wonderful, that's an outcome for which his team and his community could sincerely hope. If he pitches better after all this, that would be another issue, but also a welcome bonus.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.