2009 MLB National League Central Notebook
Milwaukee right-hander Yovani Gallardo is quickly become the ace of the starting rotation.
Expectations have been high for the 23-year-old. But against Pittsburgh on April 29, Gallardo pulled off a double whammy. Not only did he strike out a career high 11 and throw eight innings in a 1-0 shutout, he was responsible for the Brewers’ run.
Gallardo homered in the bottom of the seventh inning. He is 3-1 with a 2.86 ERA this season.
Gallardo joined an odd list of pitchers who have been a one-man show. Los Angeles’ Odalis Perez did it against Arizona in 2002, LA’s Bob Welch did it against Cincinnati in 1983, the Cubs’ Juan Pizarro accomplished it in 1971 against the Mets and the Phillies’ Jim Bunning did it 1965 against the Mets.
Some would say Gallardo’s performance against the Pirates was an appropriate end to the series. Milwaukee has won 15 consecutive meetings against Pittsburgh going back to last May. That’s the longest streak since Oakland beat Seattle 15 straight times in 2006.
But it’s even worse in Milwaukee. The Brewers have won the last 17 meetings in Milwaukee.
The Pirates have been like the girl with the curl. When they are good, they are very good. When they are bad, they are very bad.
In their 11 wins, they have scored 72 runs, about 6.5 runs per game. In their 10 losses, they have scored only 22 runs, 2.2 runs per game.
But they have been unusually cruel toward right-hander Ian Snell. Poised to have a breakout season, Snell’s 1-3 record is deceiving because the Pirates aren’t scoring for him. They have tallied only six runs in his first five starts. But all six have come in two starts. The Pirates were shut out in the other three.
If there is a team that can get away with playing pretty poor defense, you would think you couldn’t find it.
But the Cardinals are defying the logic one month into the season. Through the firs month, the division leaders are the second-worst defensive team in baseball. They were second to Washington in the most errors (21) and had the second worst fielding percentage (.976).
Part of the problems have come from Albert Pujols who has committed four errors, but the surprise has been in the outfield. Between left, center and right, those three spots have combined for six.
It had to be a misprint, didn’t it? The Astros actually lost in Cincinnati. When the Reds shut out Houston, 3-0, on April 29, it snapped an 11-game winning streak at Great American Ball Park.
The Astros had not lost there since the 2007 season. But they do like to call Cincinnati their home away from home. Since that stadium opened in 2003, Houston is 32-16 all time there.
Still, it didn’t help them escape the cellar.
Right-hander Edison Volquez emerged in 2008 as one of the top young pitchers in the game. He won 17 games and recorded more than 200 stikeouts.
But it’s been a bit of a tougher ride this year. In his second season, Volquez has struggled with locating all of his pitches. He is 3-2 with a 4.45 ERA. Plus, he has 21 walks in 28 1/3 innings.
However, the Reds are hoping his eight shut out innings of one-hit ball against Houston will get him back on track.
One reason why Oakland was eager to trade right-hander Rich Harden last year was because there were always concerns about his durability. He has issues with his shoulder that led to the concern.
So Cubs manager Lou Piniella has been careful with Harden this season. So far, so good. Harden has pitched six innings in three of his first four starts and is 2-1. But he has been very good with his strikeout pitch with 35 Ks in his first 21 innings. He is fifth in the National League in strikeouts. Right handers can’t hit him. They are only batting .137 against him.
By Kevin Lonnquist
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