After tying his single-game career high in strikeouts in his last start, Gallardo surpassed it with 13 and Ryan Braun hit his third home run in two nights to help the Milwaukee Brewers inch closer to a Central Division championship with a 10-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday night.
"I had a little trouble with my fastball early in the game," Gallardo said. "It got better as the game went on. I felt like I had a good curveball. I could command the strike zone with it. I was able to throw it to both sides of the plate, and I was able to make the big pitch when I had to."
Yuniesky Betancourt also homered and Gallardo pulled off the rare feat of striking out four batters in one inning as the Brewers lowered their magic number to five with their fourth win in their last five games and St. Louis's loss at Philadelphia.
Any combination of Milwaukee wins and Cardinal losses adding up to five gives the Brewers their first division championship since 1982, when they won the American League East.
Gallardo's previous single-game strikeout high was 12, which he'd reached four times, including last Sunday. He threw 117 pitches, 75 of them strikes, in his six innings, giving up just two hits, one run, and two walks.
Gallardo is one of several Milwaukee pitchers capable of turning in impressive performances down the stretch, manager Ron Roenicke said.
"He can be that guy," Roenicke said. "He's got the stuff to do that."
Gallardo (17-10) became the second pitcher in Milwaukee to strike out four batters in one inning when Brandon Phillips reached on a third-strike wild pitch with two outs in the fifth. Edgar Renteria struck out swinging to end the inning.
Milwaukee grabbed a first inning lead against Reds starter Edinson Volquez. Corey Hart led off by grounding a double between third baseman Juan Francisco and the bag. He moved up on Nyjer Morgan's groundout to second and scored on Braun's broken-bat bloop single to short center field.
Volquez (5-6) has allowed at least one first inning run in nine of his 18 starts. He lasted 6 2/3 innings, giving up six hits and five runs with three walks, six strikeouts and one wild pitch. He also hit a batter.
"It wasn't bad," Volquez said. "I tried to keep the game in line. I made a mistake to Betancourt. I walked one guy, then hit the next. By then, I had too many pitches."
Yonder Alonso tied the score with a home run to lead off the second inning. The 382-foot drive on Gallardo's 3-1 pitch appeared to glance off the glove of leaping center fielder Nyjer Morgan and land in the first row of seats.
The Brewers regained their one-run lead in the fourth on Betancourt's 12th homer of the season, a 391-foot shot into the right-center field seats on a 2-2 pitch with two outs. His two-out single in the sixth drove in Morgan from second, giving Milwaukee a 3-1 lead. Braun added his 31st homer, a three-run shot into the left field seats off of Jose Arredondo, in the seventh.
"I think Braun is at that point in the season -- a lot of the guys are -- where they know where we're at and they're trying to turn it up a notch," Roenicke said. "It's a real good sign that maybe we're going to go on a big roll offensively."
Mark Kotsay had a pinch-hit, three-run double in Milwaukee's four-run eighth, giving the Brewers 16 runs over their last two games.
"If you see it one day, you don't know, but when you see it a couple of days in a row with a lot of guys contributing, it's a good sign," Braun said.
"They beat us up pretty good, and we didn't do much offensively," said Reds manager Dusty Baker, pointing out that the Reds were blown out on the night the team honored Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench. "I don't think we impressed Johnny too much with our performance."
The Reds unveiled a statue of Bench outside of Great American Ball Park before the game. He was honored in pre-game ceremonies, which included seeing a portion of the street surrounding the ballpark renamed "Johnny Bench Way," and he threw a ceremonial first pitch to his former teammmate, Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan. ... Brewers 2B Rickie Weeks didn't start Saturday after slightly aggravating the left ankle injury that forced him to miss 39 games from July 27 to Sept. 8. ... Reds C Ryan Hanigan and Ramon Hernandez both were sidelined on Saturday, Hanigan with back spasms and Hernandez with a bruise on his left shin after a foul tip on Friday. ... LHP Dontrelle Willis will take his 13th stab at win No. 1 of the season when he starts Sunday against the Brewers. Willis, 0-6 since being called up from Triple-A Louisville on July 10, has been victimized by three blown saves, including his first start at Milwaukee. ... Brewers RHP Zack Greinke is 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in two career starts in Cincinnati.