The big story from tonight’s game is, of course, the return of ace Yovani Gallardo. Gallardo showed no signs of any lingering injury or even any sign of missed time – it’s possible the extended rest after the break even helped his arm, as his fastball reached 95 and averaged 92.9, over a half-mile an hour higher than his season average. He struck out five pirates while only walking one, and induced 10 swinging strikes in 95 pitches. Overall, this was a pretty standard Gallardo performance.
Gallardo told Telly Hughes after the game that he didn’t notice anything from the oblique strain, although we won’t really know for sure until tomorrow. Still, it’s hard to imagine any lingering effects, and given that the injury was a core injury as opposed to an arm injury, I’m not terribly worried about this injury, long term.
The offense was all Weeks and Fielder. Both players hit home runs, numbers 19 and 24 respectively, in order to put three runs on the board for the Brewers. Each of them would be key, thanks to a ridiculous intentional HBP from Todd Coffey which ignited a two out rally which put the Pirates within striking distance in the late innings. Headhunting is great if you’re an emotionally weak team, and some may think that it’s important to show force. I’m not even sure if that’s true, but if it is, there’s a time and a place for everything, and in the late innings of a close game is not the time nor the place to intentionally put runners on the bases for nothing more than to get some sort of superficial revenge.
Of course, the late innings belong to John Axford, who recorded the last five outs for another unconventional save. Axford continues to make me, and hopefully Brewers management, wonder why the conventional save is three outs. Axford has shown no ill effects from the extra work and his contributions have been huge – his +.276 WPA was second only to Gallardo in today’s game. This time, Axford lived on the edges of the zone with his 95 MPH heat, drawing weak contact and two strikeouts from Pirates hitters. Axford is one of the young talents on this team that makes it worth watching as the season winds into the dog days of August and September, and he was key in tonight’s win.