By Todd Rosiak, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel –
MILWAUKEE — One would have never known Yovani Gallardo was dealing with a family issue by the way he pitched Friday night.
The right-hander tied for the National League lead by posting his 20th consecutive quality start, scattering just four hits and one run over seven innings while striking out nine in leading the Milwaukee Brewers to a 6-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies at Miller Park.
Gallardo also drove in a pair of runs with a single in the fourth inning, helping carry the Brewers to their eighth consecutive home win.
Manager Ron Roenicke divulged after the game that Gallardo was headed back home to Texas to tend to an illness in the family.
“This has been going on for a little bit,” said Roenicke, who added Gallardo would return to the team Monday and remain in line to make his next scheduled start Wednesday against the Chicago Cubs.
Not everyone on the team appeared to be aware Gallardo was dealing with an off-the-field issue.
“He told me before the game,” said Ryan Braun, who helped pad Gallardo’s lead with a two-run home run in the sixth inning.
“So it’s that much more impressive that he went out there and performed as well as he did on the mound and at the plate knowing there’s some more important things going on in his life.”
Gallardo was on his game early, striking out Ryan Howard to end the first inning and then the side in the second.
The Phillies managed just a single off him through three innings before getting him in trouble to start off the fourth.
Chase Utley led off with a ground-rule double down the left-field line, and Howard followed with a double to straightaway center that glanced off Nyjer Morgan’s glove as he retreated.
Utley scored easily, and Philadelphia took a 1-0 lead.
Domonic Brown then reached on an infield single to give the Phillies two on with nobody out, but Gallardo buckled down to strike out Laynce Nix, get Kevin Frandsen to fly out to right and strike out Brian Schneider looking all on breaking balls.
“He had a really good breaking ball,” said catcher Martin Maldonado, who appeared surprised afterward when asked about Gallardo’s situation. “And if you’ve got a good breaking ball, it makes the fastball way better. That breaking ball was exciting today, to watch it.”
It appeared as if Milwaukee would go quickly in the bottom half of the inning after Braun grounded out to third and Aramis Ramirez struck out.
But Corey Hart got things going with his second single of the night to center, Maldonado followed with a walk and then Morgan tripled to right-center to score both and put the Brewers in front, 2-1.
Morgan victimized Brown on the play, who got a glove on the ball but couldn’t haul it in and then crashed into the wall and fell hard to the warning track.
The RBI were Morgan’s fourth and fifth in his last two starts; he drove in three runs in the Brewers’ loss at Colorado on Wednesday.
The Phillies walked Jean Segura intentionally to bring up Gallardo, but after Segura stole second Gallardo inside-outed a single to right to score both Morgan and the rookie shortstop to double the Brewers’ lead to 4-1.
Gallardo now has seven RBI this season, tying him with Washington’s Stephen Strasburg for most among pitchers.
“I don’t think I can explain it,” Roenicke said of Gallardo’s hitting. “Last year when I came over I heard how great a hitter this guy was, and he didn’t really swing it that well. And didn’t swing well at the beginning of this year, either.
“He’s hitting the ball and he’s pitching well. So, I don’t know.”
Milwaukee picked up two more runs with clutch two-out hitting in the sixth.
After Norichika Aoki walked with one out and Rickie Weeks popped out to second, Braun extended his National League lead in home runs by lining his 32nd just over the wall in center.
“My approach is always the same: See it and hit it,” said Braun, who’s now homered three times in the past two games to break out of a two-week dry spell. “Try to hit it on the barrel.”
Gallardo, staked to that 6-1 lead, then recorded a 1-2-3 seventh before exiting to a nice ovation from the crowd of 39,163. Gallardo threw a season-high 118 pitches and retired 12 of the final 13 batters he faced.
“Outstanding ball game for him,” Roenicke said. “Probably the best he’s had his curveball all year. Great location on the fastball, good stuff. I thought a great ball game.”