Yovani Gallardo will pitch for his hometown team in the first game of the American League Division Series, a nice footnote for the Fort Worth resident as the Texas Rangers make their first playoff appearance since 2012.
But the decision to put him up against the mighty Toronto Blue Jays offense had nothing to do with heartstrings or feel-good storylines. It was all about a big, fat zero.
That’s how many runs Gallardo allowed in two starts covering 13 2/3 innings against the Blue Jays this season. With Cole Hamels unavailable, Gallardo prevailed based on his track record, this year and in the past.
Game 1 of the ALDS will be at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at Rogers Centre.
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“This is the team I grew up watching as a young kid,” Gallardo said. “To have this opportunity to start Game 1, it’s a big accomplishment. I’m excited to get that opportunity and take advantage of it.”
Hamels, who tossed a complete game Sunday as the Rangers clinched the AL West, will start Game 2 on normal rest, said manager Jeff Banister. The starters for Game 3 — and Games 4 and 5, if necessary — were not announced.
Gallardo (13-11, 3.42 ERA) enjoyed a terrific first half in which he was a candidate for the All-Star team, but he slowed some in the second half. He didn’t log six innings in any of his final seven starts, and he hasn’t made it past seven innings since June 27.
3.42 ERA for Yovani Gallardo in 2015, the best of his career. He posted 33 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings in June and July.
He worked 8 1/3 scoreless innings that day at Toronto, and tossed another 5 1/3 scoreless innings against the Blue Jays on Aug. 27.
Gallardo hasn’t faced the Blue Jays often after spending almost all of his career in the National League, but he has seen plenty of their top hitters. Right fielder Jose Bautista started his career in the NL along with shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, first baseman Edwin Encarnacion and catcher Russell Martin.
“I go out there and pitch my game each and every time out,” said Gallardo, who went to Trimble Tech High in Fort Worth. “They know the way I pitch. I’ve faced those guys throughout my career a pretty good number of times.”
Robinson Chirinos, who caught the June gem, said that Gallardo had a good fastball and kept the ball away from the Blue Jays’ powerful right-handed hitters. In August, Chirinos watched as Gallardo navigated through the Toronto lineup and limited damage.
He was throwing a strike with his fastball, and he was commanding the outside part. I think that’s going to be a key to facing those right-handed hitters. He was in control of that game the whole game.
Robinson Chirinos, who caught Yovani Gallardo’s June 27 start at Toronto
Throughout the majority of his 184 1/3 innings, Gallardo gave the Rangers a chance to win and didn’t give in when things got rough.
“He competes,” third baseman Adrian Beltre said. “He’s a veteran that over the years has proven he’s a horse. He’s going to do everything in his power to keep his team in the game. We trust that guy.”
Gallardo also isn’t a postseason rookie. He pitched in five playoff games, four of them starts, for Milwaukee in 2008 and 2011, posting a 1-2 record with a 2.08 ERA.
He allowed three unearned runs in four innings in his debut, a game the Brewers lost to the eventual world champion Philadelphia Phillies and eventual World Series MVP Hamels.
“Cole and I were just talking about that the other day,” Gallardo said. “I was coming off ACL surgery and I got the ball in Game 1 against my teammate now, Cole. It was fun.”
Banister said that Gallardo was the choice because of the success against the Blue Jays, his experience in general and his knack for keeping the ball on the ground.
Yovani Gallardo was born in Mexico but moved to Fort Worth at age 4. He attended Trimble Tech High School and signed a letter of intent to play at TCU before being drafted in the second round of the 2004 draft.
Gallardo allowed only 15 home runs in the regular season and had a 1.44-1 groundout-to-flyout ratio.
“I like the body of work. I like the ground ball. I like the veteran pitcher in that spot,” Banister said. “He’s been a guy for us all year that has grinded out innings for us and kept us in ballgames.”
The chance to start in the postseason for the Rangers is something Gallardo envisioned as a youngster playing baseball on Fort Worth’s North Side and when he would attend games at Globe Life Park.
“When I was young, it would seem like every time I’d come out to watch a game at the ballpark and even with my cousins, it was one of those things we always talked about,” Gallardo said. “Having that goal for myself to put on that Rangers uniform and pitch important games throughout the year. The one goal we all have is to win the World Series. This is the first step.”
ALDS: Rangers vs. Blue Jays
Gm. 1: at Toronto, 2:30 Thur., FS1
Gm. 2: at Toronto, 11:30 a.m. Fri., MLB Network
Gm. 3: at Texas, 7 p.m. Sun., FS1
Gm. 4: at Texas, TBD Mon.*, FS1
Gm. 5: at Toronto, TBD Oct. 14*, FS1