Yovani Gallardo’s emergence as ace helps Brewers advance

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It was hardly a given that the Brewers should start Yovani Gallardo in Game 1 of their series against the Diamondbacks. The pitching stats of their top three starters were eerily similar:

Yovani Gallardo: 17-10, 3.52 ERA, 1.22 WHIP
Zack Greinke: 16-6, 3.83 ERA, 1.20 WHIP
Shaun Marcum: 13-7, 3.54 ERA, 1.16 WHIP

Gallardo, though, was Milwaukee’s Opening Day starter, and he was Ron Roenicke’s choice to match up against 21-game winner Ian Kennedy and potentially start two games against the Diamondbacks. And what a call it was. Gallardo went eight innings and allowed one run in the Game 1 victory, and he recovered from a bumpy start to limit Arizona to one run over six innings in Game 5, which Milwaukee won 3-2 in 10 innings.

Gallardo was something of a disappointment in previous years, in part because his terrific performance as a 21-year-old in 2007 set the bar so high. Gallardo missed most of 2008 following knee surgery, but he did make it back for the postseason to pitch against the Phillies. The Brewers lost that LDS, with Gallardo allowing three unearned runs over four innings in a Game 1 loss (he later pitched three scoreless innings in relief with the Brewers behind in Game 4).

Expectations were that Gallardo would challenge for Cy Young Award as soon as 2009 or 2010, but while he was generally effective, he failed to dominate either year. In 2009, he went 13-12 with a 3.73 ERA and a shockingly high total of 94 walks in 185 2/3 innings. In 2010, he improved to 14-7, but his ERA was 3.84 and his WHIP was a pedestrian 1.37.

Gallardo broke through with 17 wins this year, but he still didn’t put it all together.  He gave up 27 homers, which was tied for the fifth-highest total in the NL. His first-inning struggles were particularly frustrating; the league hit .288 with nine homers in 132 at-bats off him then, compared to .236 with 18 homers in 656 at-bats the rest of the time.

So, Gallardo still had some potential to fulfill… some upside left to attain. Fortunately for the Brewers, it looks like it’s happening now. He’ll be Milwaukee’s choice to start Games 3 & 7 in the NLCS, and that’s almost surely just how they want it.

Kenley Jansen’s consecutive saves streak ends at 34

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Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen gave up three runs in the top of the ninth inning during Sunday’s game against the Braves, blowing his first save since August 26 last season. He had converted 34 consecutive saves.

Jansen yielded back-to-back singles to lead off the ninth inning, staked to a 4-1 lead. After getting two outs, Matt Adams hit a three-run home run down the right field line to knot the game at four apiece.

After Sunday’s lackluster performance, Jansen is now 24-for-25 in save chances this season with a 1.49 ERA and a 62/2 K/BB ratio in 42 1/3 innings.

Zach Britton sets American League record with 55th consecutive save

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Orioles closer Zach Britton finished Sunday’s 9-7 victory over the Astros with a scoreless ninth inning, earning his sixth save of the season. He has now earned the save in 55 consecutive opportunities dating back to September 2015, setting a new American League record. Tom Gordon previously held the record with 54 consecutive saves. Eric Gagne holds the major league record at 84.

Britton’s last blown save came on September 20, 2015, then converted two more saves before the end of the regular season. He went 47-for-47 in save chances last season and is six-for-six so far this year.

Along with his six saves, Britton has a 2.65 ERA and a 13/8 K/BB ratio in 17 innings this season. The lefty came off the disabled list earlier this month after missing two months with a strained left forearm.