MILWAUKEE — Yovani Gallardo emerged from the shadows, outpitching Arizona ace Ian Kennedy as the Milwaukee Brewers kept winning at Miller Park, beating the Diamondbacks 4-1 in their NL division series opener on Saturday.
Prince Fielder chased Kennedy with a two-out, two-run homer in the seventh inning, helping erase the stigma that the big slugger’s playoffs would be anything like 2008, when he went 1 for 14.
Same, too, with Gallardo.
The right-hander retired 14 of 15 during one stretch, perhaps helped by how the shadows cut across the infield. With an early start time, the sun peeked through the retractable roof all afternoon, creating a crazy, changing pattern.
Gallardo gave up one run and four hits over eight innings and matched a postseason franchise record with nine strikeouts.
Gallardo was only nicked by Ryan Roberts’ home run in the eighth, and won in his first postseason start since a Game 1 loss in the 2008 NLDS to Philadelphia. An All-Star in 2010, he went 17-10 this season, yet is rarely mentioned among the elite pitchers in the game.
He’s even overshadowed — so to speak — on his own staff by 2009 AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke.
Game 2 is Sunday. Greinke will start for Milwaukee against Daniel Hudson.
Ryan Braun, who fell just short of the NL batting title, contributed three hits. The All-Star left fielder also threw out a runner at the plate in the first inning as Milwaukee’s shaky defense was suddenly solid.
John Axford pitched a perfect ninth for his first save after converting his last 43 in a row in the regular season. The Brewers started 1-0 at Miller Park after winning a major-league best 57 times at home during their run to the NL Central title.
Gallardo was at his best over his final three starts and reached more than 200 strikeouts for the second straight season. He never made a mark in the postseason in 2008 because he need surgery and missed almost five months after tearing a ligament in his right knee.
This performance changes that.
Gallardo got out of a first-inning jam thanks to Braun’s throw, then cruised until Willie Bloomquist singled in the sixth. Hairston ended that inning when he scooped up a weak grounder to third base by Justin Upton and threw him out as he tried sliding into first.
In the seventh, Lyle Overbay drove a ball to deep center field where Nyjer Morgan gathered it at the warning track before slamming into the wall to end the inning.