By Bob Elliott
Into the teeth of the storm he walks.
Will he resemble one of those CNN weathermen holding onto a STOP sign covering Hurricane Blue Jays?
He will not take a protective L screen with him or don a helmet when he heads to the mound Thursday afternoon.
Nope, right-hander Yovani Gallardo will wear his Texas Rangers uniform, a cap with a large ‘T’ and a No. 49 on his back as he faces the most potent offence in the majors.
Is it fair to send Gallardo against the Blue Jays, who led all everyone but the Halton County old timers league in runs scored, homers and OPS?
Fair for the Jays we mean?
This year he has pitched 13 2/3 scoreless in recording two wins against the Jays.
As they say in West Texas “that ain’t any no easy pickins.”
David Price faces Gallardo in Game 1 of the best-of-five American League Division Series at the Rogers Centre.
Gallardo pitched 8 1/3 scoreless in a 4-0 win over the Jays June 27 at the Rogers Centre allowing singles to Edwin Encarnacion, Kevin Pillar and Josh Donaldson. The loss knocked the Jays two games off the pace behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East.
And he pitched 5 1/3 scoreless on Aug. 27 in a 4-1 Texas win over the Jays in Arlington, Tex. He allowed two singles to Ben Revere and one to Dioner Navarro departing after 105th pitch ... ball four to Donaldson.
The loss cut the Jays lead to 1 1/2 games.
That day he battled his former Milwaukee Brewers rotation mate Marco Estrada with the Rangers leading 1-0 until the seventh.
“I remember meeting him for the first time,” said Estrada, 32, “he was more established that I was. It wasn’t like meeting my idol Fernando Valenzuela. I played at Glendale Community College with his son.”
Estrada, 32, and Gallardo, 29, are from Mexico.
“Yovani has a big cutter, a good curve ball and locates his fastball well,” said Estrada, originally drafted by Washington Nationals and Dana Brown, now of the Jays.
Former Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin describes Gallardo as a “proven winner,” and Estrada says Gallardo won’t be bothered by Thursday’s noisy crowd of roughly 48,000 at the Rogers Centre.
Since being drafted in second round by the Brewers from a Fort Worth high school in 2004 (46th over-all), the Penjamillo, Mex. born right-hander has gone 102-75. That’s better than second round pitchers Jason Vargas (67-70), Anthony Swarzak (16-24) and Billy Buckner (7-12).
In fact of the 21 pitchers selected in the first round only Justin Verlander (157-97) and Jered Weaver (138-81) have more wins.
Gallardo has more victories than the likes of first rounders Gio Gonzalez (91-66), Phil Hughes (83-69), Homer Bailey (58-51) and Jeff Neimann (40-26). And he was a whole lot better than the Jays dual first-round lefties David Purcey (7-13) and Zach Jackson (4-5).
“He’s vastly under appreciated by analytic groups,” said one advance scout, due to his decreased strikeout totals. “He’s never had arm trouble, takes the ball, is quietly unassuming and gets the job done. He makes big pitches when he has to, the only thing his pitch counts do get high.”
He was the opening day starter five straight years (2010-14) and made four post-season starts for the Brewers.
“He pitched our opener when we played the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first round in 2011,” Estrada said. “I remember he said he was a little amped up in the first.”
Estrada gave up two hits in the first and two the rest of the way in a 4-1 win over the Diamondbacks.
“And he started the deciding Game 5 (one run in six innings) when Nyjer Morgan walked them off in the bottom of the 10th. Nyjer Morgan? I wonder what ever happened to him?”
Morgan played 10 games this season for the Hanwha Eagles in the KBO in Korea.
No one will be wondering what ever happened to Gallardo.
Troy Tulowitzki, 11-for-27 (.407) with four doubles, a homer, four RBIs and three strikeouts lifetime against Gallardo: “He throws all his pitches for strikes. He competes. He knows how to pitch.”
Edwin Encarnnacion, 5-for-16 (.313) with three homers, six RBIs and zero whiffs: “I faced him a lot when I was with Cincinnati. He doesn’t throw as hard now, but he has better command. He locates well.”
Chris Colabello, hitless in three at-bats: “his arm angle is directly over the top. Usually what you see is what you get. And when you have that arm slot your fastball stays straight. His doesn’t. He has great sink on his pitches.”
Josh Donaldson is a .333 hitter against Gallardo with two RBIs and two whiffs. Russell Martin is hitting .217 (5-for-23) with a double, an RBI with six walks and six strikeouts and Jose Bautista is .083 (1-for-12) with four strikeouts.
So which carries more weight in this showdown?
Gallardo’s 2.08 ERA in 26 post-season innings?
Or his 13 2/3 scoreless inning against the Jays this season?
Or the Jays Mount Crushmore of a lineup over the 162-game season which led in total bases?
Toronto fans have been waiting 22 years for the answer to such questions.