Yovani Gallardo took another step Monday night to becoming the ace that everyone expects him to be.
Although Gallardo didn't walk away with the win, he did keep the Brewers in the game long enough until the bats were able to come through late in the game.
Gallardo got through seven innings, allowed seven hits and three runs while striking out five and walking three. It was clear early on that Gallardo didn't have his normal arsenal of pitches to deal with. His fastball didn't have the zip that it normally does, and his curveball wasn't breaking as sharply as he is accustomed to.
After the Brewers took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first, the Pirates tallied a single run in the second, fourth, and fifth. The scoring was highlighted by a solo home run by Andy LaRoche in the fourth.
Gallardo was then able to stop any further damage while he remained in the game.
While trying to do his best Kirk Gibson impression, Ryan Braun returned to the Brewers lineup after undergoing a MRI earlier in the day. Braun came on to pinch-hit in the top of the eighth with the bases loaded and showed no sign of having back issues. Braun hit a bloop into right field that scored two runs and tied the game at three.
The Pirates withstood the Brewers rally and took the lead in the bottom of the eighth and it appeared they were finally ready to break their long losing streak to the Brewers.
Pirates' closer Matt Capps came on for the ninth and it seemed as if he were channeling the ghosts of Brewers' relievers from the past. Capps had no control at all and was unable to close out the victory for the Pirates.
After allowing the Brewers to tie the game, Capps battled Rickie Weeks with runners on first and third. Weeks was able to work to a full count and the drove a Capps fastball deep into left field and gave the Brewers a 7-4 lead on his sixth home run of the year.
Trevor Hoffman came on for the save in the bottom of the inning. He allowed a hit but no serious damage was done and Hoffman picked up his fourth save of the year since returning from the disabled list.
The Brewer bats had a flare for the dramatic on Monday but that was only possible due to Yovani Gallardo's efforts on the mound. Gallardo has now learned how to stay in a game even when he doesn't have his best stuff. Gallardo and catcher Jason Kendall were able to work together quite well and minimize any damage the Pirates were able to inflict.
Gallardo's performance on Monday was as big as any this year to show everyone just how good he will be. Great pitchers will their teams to win no matter the circumstance. Gallardo is proving he can do that.
It has been a joy to watch Yovani Gallardo pitch this year. He shows a different way to win each time on the mound. The question is no longer will Yovani Gallardo be good. The question is: Just how good can Gallardo be?