Gallardo powers Brewers' sweep of Pirates

MILWAUKEE -- Yovani Gallardo didn't start Opening Day, but that didn't shield him from expectations: If the Milwaukee Brewers are going anywhere this season, the 23-year-old will have to become their ace.

And for the third outing in a row, Gallardo looked every bit the part. He struck out a career-high 11 and homered in the seventh inning as the Brewers swept the Pittsburgh Pirates -- again -- with a 1-0 victory Wednesday.

"I'll be fast," Brewers manager Ken Macha joked afterward. "Hitting? Gallardo. Pitching? Gallardo. Any questions?"

Gallardo (3-1) didn't allow a runner until Andy LaRoche doubled with two outs in the fifth, giving up a total of two hits and a walk in eight innings. Gallardo, who threw his first complete game in a victory at Houston on Friday, has allowed a total of two runs in his past three starts.

Gallardo said he doesn't feel additional pressure to become the team's ace after the departure of free agents CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets but does feel a significant sense of responsibility to his teammates.

"It's always great to hear everybody in this clubhouse say that, and the fans," Gallardo said. "For me, it helps me work a little bit harder, be more aggressive and go out there and get the job done."

Milwaukee has won 15 straight over Pittsburgh, a streak that goes back to last May 22. It's the longest winning streak by one team over another since Oakland beat Seattle 15 straight in 2006.

"They've got our number," Pittsburgh starter Ian Snell said. "They're a good team."

Snell (1-3) was overshadowed by Gallardo but also delivered a dominant outing, holding the Brewers to four hits and no runs through the first six innings.

Gallardo provided his own offense in the seventh, hitting an 0-2 pitch from Snell deep into the left field.

It was Gallardo's second homer of the season and fourth of his career -- the most hit by a pitcher for the Brewers, who moved to the National League in 1998. Gallardo also hit a game-winning homer off Randy Johnson in an April 8 victory over San Francisco.

According to STATS LLC, Gallardo is the first pitcher to homer for the game's only run since Aug. 28, 2002, when Odalis Perez did it for the Los Angeles Dodgers at home against Arizona.

"It's just fun," Gallardo said. "I'm sure I'll be in the batting cage and on the field joking about it."

Milwaukee started 4-9 but ran its record to 11-10 with Wednesday's victory. Macha called Gallardo "pretty much lights-out" lately but said he does have concerns about wearing out his young pitcher, who missed most of last season because of injuries.

"We really needed him to get that far out in the game today with the amount of bullpen usage we've been having lately," Macha said. "So if you're going to classify somebody an ace pitcher, that's somebody who goes out there and tells the bullpen, 'Take a rest for the day.'"

Carlos Villanueva pitched the ninth for his second save in five chances, as Macha didn't want to pitch closer Trevor Hoffman three days in a row fresh off his stint on the disabled list.

Game notes
Snell struck out Ryan Braun three times and then chided the young slugger for his comments earlier in the week. "You shouldn't say stuff like that," Snell said. "You should just keep your mouth shut because it might come back to bite you in the butt." Braun was angry after being hit by a pitch Monday and seemed ready for a confrontation when he said, "Tell Mr. [commissioner Bud] Selig, we'll see what happens. It's going to be interesting." ... The Brewers placed catcher Mike Rivera on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained left ankle after Wednesday's game. No corresponding roster move was immediately announced.