Arizona (50-46) at Milwaukee (53-41)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Milwaukee, WI
Temp: 38° F
  • Game info: 2:05 pm EDT Thu Jul 19, 2007
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Yovani Gallardo has some big shoes to fill over the next few weeks as the Milwaukee Brewers try to maintain their NL Central lead.

Gallardo will take the mound for injured ace Ben Sheets as the Brewers wrap up a four-game series with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday at Miller Park.

The Brewers (53-41) have been in first place in the Central since April 21, but got bad news Monday when they learned Sheets will miss four to six weeks with an injured right middle finger. Sheets leads the club with 10 wins and owns a 3.39 ERA—the best among Milwaukee pitchers who have started more than three games.

However, manager Ned Yost thinks that Gallardo (1-1, 2.83 ERA) will be able to hold the fort until Sheets gets back.

“We’re confident we’re not going to miss a beat,” Yost told the Brewers’ official team Web site.

Gallardo relieved Sheets and threw 4 2-3 scoreless innings in the Brewers’ 2-1, 10-inning win over Colorado. Rockies manager Clint Hurdle was certainly impressed with the rookie right-hander, who has never faced the Diamondbacks.

“He’s the best 21-year-old pitcher I’ve ever seen,” Hurdle said on the Brewers’ site, though he later admitted that Dwight Gooden was better. “(Gallardo) was dripping with poise. No walks, four punchouts, four innings, one hit. Curveball at will, fastball in and out, changeup. Very impressive.”

Gallardo made three starts in June, going 1-0 with a 2.79 ERA in those outings, but the Brewers moved him to the bullpen and had hoped to limit his innings.

The Brewers are seeking to win a second straight series after Wednesday’s 5-2 loss snapped a four-game winning streak. Kevin Mench homered for Milwaukee, which managed only four hits.

The Brewers’ division lead shrank to 3 1/2 games over the second-place Chicago Cubs, who beat San Francisco on Wednesday.

Milwaukee had won its previous four games all by one run, but has scored just 15 runs over the last five games. Key hitters such as Ryan Braun (3-for-16), Corey Hart (4-for-20) and J.J. Hardy (3-for-17) have struggled in that span.

“We’re going to have to start scoring a few more runs here in the near future,” Yost said.

The Diamondbacks (50-46), meanwhile, ended a three-game losing streak. Mark Reynolds hit a tiebreaking three-run homer in the eighth to lead Arizona to its third win in 11 games.

“We needed that game bad,” the rookie third baseman said. “I was just fortunate enough to be up there in the right spot to help the team win. I got a good swing on it.”

In the finale, the Diamondbacks will hand the ball to Livan Hernandez (5-5, 4.61), who is trying for his first win since May 27. He has gone 0-3 with a 6.19 ERA in his last eight starts, giving up 15 of the 19 homers he has allowed this season.

Hernandez gave up four runs - all on three homers - in six innings on Saturday, but didn’t get a decision as the Diamondbacks rallied for a 5-4 win over San Diego.

The Cuban right-hander is 7-3 with a 3.29 ERA in 16 career starts against the Brewers and has won his last five decisions against them. Hernandez has not faced the Brewers since 2005 while with Washington.

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Starting Pitchers

L. Hernández Mil vs. Y. Gallardo Mil
11-11 Record 9-5
4.93 ERA 3.67
90 K 101
79 BB 37
1.60 WHIP 1.27

Scoreboard

Thursday, Jul 19