MILWAUKEE (AP) — Yovani Gallardo emerged from the shadows, outpitching Arizona ace Ian Kennedy as the Milwaukee Brewers kept winning at Miller Park, beating the Diamondbacks 4-1 in their NL division series opener on Saturday.
Prince Fielder chased Kennedy with a two-out, two-run homer in the seventh inning, helping erase the stigma that the big slugger’s playoffs would be anything like 2008, when he went 1 for 14.
Same, too, with Gallardo.
The right-hander retired 14 of 15 during one stretch, perhaps helped by how the shadows cut across the infield. With an early start time, the sun peeked through the retractable roof all afternoon, creating a crazy, changing pattern.
Gallardo gave up one run and four hits over eight innings and matched a postseason franchise record with nine strikeouts.
Gallardo was only nicked by Ryan Roberts’ home run in the eighth, and won in his first postseason start since a Game 1 loss in the 2008 NLDS to Philadelphia. An All-Star in 2010, he went 17-10 this season, yet is rarely mentioned among the elite pitchers in the game.
He’s even overshadowed — so to speak — on his own staff by 2009 AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke.
Game 2 is Sunday. Greinke will start for Milwaukee against Daniel Hudson.
Jerry Hairston Jr., playing in place of starter Casey McGehee, put the Brewers ahead for good in the fourth with a sacrifice fly in the fourth set up by Fielder’s double.
Ryan Braun, who fell just short of the NL batting title, contributed three hits. The All-Star left fielder also threw out a runner at the plate in the first inning as Milwaukee’s shaky defense was suddenly solid.
John Axford pitched a perfect ninth for his first save after converting his last 43 in a row in the regular season. The Brewers started 1-0 at Miller Park after winning a major-league best 57 times at home during their run to the NL Central title.
Gallardo was at his best over his final three starts and reached more than 200 strikeouts for the second straight season. He never made a mark in the postseason in 2008 because he need surgery and missed almost five months after tearing a ligament in his right knee.
This performance changes that.
Gallardo got out of a first-inning jam thanks to Braun’s throw, then cruised until Willie Bloomquist singled in the sixth. Hairston ended that inning when he scooped up a weak grounder to third base by Justin Upton and threw him out as he tried sliding into first.
In the seventh, Lyle Overbay drove a ball to deep center field where Nyjer Morgan gathered it at the warning track before slamming into the wall to end the inning.
Fielder hit his second postseason home run in the seventh after Braun doubled for his third hit of the day, making it 4-0. Fielder and his teammates celebrated in the dugout after the shot that broke open the game.
The fans also hailed Fielder — a free agent-to-be, he’s already said this is probably his last season in Milwaukee.
Gallardo’s lone mistake came when Roberts homered off him to start the eighth. But the 25-year-old struck out Gerardo Parra, pinch hitter Sean Burroughs and Bloomquist to end the inning.
Gallardo showed an uncharacteristic flash of emotion, too, slamming his right hand into his glove as he walked off the mound. He improved to 6-0 in six career starts against Arizona with a 1.18 ERA.
Milwaukee’s normal infield of Fielder, Rickie Weeks at second, Yuniesky Betancourt at short and McGehee at third committed 71 errors this year. With McGehee also struggling at the plate, manager Ron Roenicke started Hairston.
It worked in the field and at the plate.
Braun singled off Kennedy, a 21-game winner, to start the fourth. Fielder followed with a double down the left field line opposite the shift to put runners in scoring position and Kennedy hit Weeks to load the bases with no out. Hairston followed with a sacrifice fly.
Milwaukee took a 2-0 lead with a pair of two-out hits in the sixth. Betancourt tripled and scored when Jonathan Lucroy’s bloop landed just between Bloomquist at short and Parra in left.
Arizona, which has been aggressive under manager Kirk Gibson all season, tested Milwaukee’s shaky defense from the start.
Bloomquist singled to lead off the game and easily stole second with one out. Upton singled and third base coach Matt Williams never hesitated sending Bloomquist home.
Braun’s throw from left needed two hops, but arrived perfectly to the left side of the catcher Lucroy, who blocked the plate and tagged out Bloomquist.
Gallardo settled into a rhythm from there, mixing his slider and curveball with his sharp fastball as the long shadows crossed the playing field in the retractable roof ballpark that opened in 2001.
NOTES: Diamondbacks hitting coach Don Baylor was back with the team after he fainted in the clubhouse on Friday. He was released from the hospital early Saturday morning. Baylor said he fainted because of a complication with medicine he was taking for back spasms. … Brewers radio broadcaster Bob Uecker threw out the first pitch and Joseph Attanasio, father of principal owner Mark Attanasio, sang the national anthem. … Roenicke said the plan at the moment was to start Randy Wolf (13-10, 3.69 ERA) for Game 4, if necessary, instead of bringing Gallardo back on short rest. … Greinke is 11-0 with a 3.13 ERA in 15 home starts, and Milwaukee is 15-0 in those games. … Hudson is 0-3 in his last three starts with a 4.26 ERA.