Gallagher picked up his first win of the season on Tuesday night as Daytona hammered the St. Lucie Mets, 8-2. Gallagher gave up the opposing team’s only two runs (one earned) on three hits to raise (yes, raise) his ERA to a spectacular 0.47 in three outings. He tied a career-high 10 strikeouts without allowing a walk.
Topping out at 93 mph on the radar gun and mixing in an assortment of breaking balls and sliders, Gallagher went seven innings while allowing his first earned run of the year.
The Daytona offense pounded out 12 hits to support the cause and made a winner out of the Cubs’ 2005 Minor League Pitcher of the Year for the first time since joining Daytona from Class A Peoria toward the tail end of last season.
Six days prior to his dominant performance on Tuesday, Gallagher held St. Lucie scoreless in six innings at the Mets home park on April 12 and received a no-decision. Having faced the same team for the second time over the course of one week aided the right-hander tremendously.
“It was pretty much the same outing as my last time out,” Gallagher told Inside The Ivy after the game. “The only difference was tonight, I was a little more comfortable. I had faced these guys in my last start, so they were still fresh in my mind. I picked up on a lot of their strengths and where not to pitch them. I knew how to prepare myself a lot better this time.”
Studying his opponent from start to start and analyzing the do’s and don’ts of a team is par the course for Gallagher. He won 14 games at Peoria a season ago on the Midwest League circuit by applying that same approach before each start.
“Going out there and facing a team for a second time, I have a much better idea of what my game plan is and how I’m going to attack the hitters,” Gallagher added.
“Any time you face a team, there’s only so much you can go on by scouting reports. You can read one that may be better suited for another pitcher, but you might pitch them differently. The second time you face a team, it’s a little different. You know what they can handle and what they can’t.”
On the receiving end of Gallagher’s gem was his catcher, Alan Rick. The two worked closely together last season at Peoria when Rick would often catch Gallagher’s starts there, and were a good tandem with Gallagher seldom differing from Rick’s play-calling on Tuesday.
“Sean was really changing speeds and changing locations,” Rick said. “After coming out of the bullpen in warm-up’s, he had two pitches -- the curveball and fastball -- that he could throw for a strike any time he wanted on any count. Then later on around the fourth or fifth inning, he started using his slider a little more and got a good feel for that, too.”
Rick believes it’s the ability to chance speeds and pitches effectively that makes Gallagher so unique and difficult to hit.
“When you have a pitcher that can throw three pitches for strikes, it’s a big boost,” he said. “For one, it helps the bullpen but it’s also hard on the opposing team because they don’t know what pitch to set on.
“It was a blast and a total field day out there tonight.”
Early Season Woes
The team would certainly welcome more field day’s. Having gotten off to a slow start with a 2-9 record in their first 11 games, Daytona ranked second to last in the Florida State League in both hitting (.229 as a whole) and pitching (5.58 ERA), and were already eight games back of first-place Brevard County at 10-1 entering the game.
First-year Daytona manager Don Buford, a former major leaguer and the father of ex-Cub center fielder Damon Buford, has done a good job of applying a “no panic” approach among his players, says Rick.
“He’s always told us to go out and play for the day and to hit ‘em where they ain’t,” Rick said.
It should also be noted that two years ago, when Daytona won the first half of the Florida State League and eventually shared the outright league title with the Tampa Yankees, manager Steve McFarland’s team began the year in a similar 2-9 hole.
“The thing is, we’ve hit the ball hard all season but just haven’t caught any breaks,” Rick added. “If we’d have caught a break here or there, we could easily be 6-6 or 7-5. But that’s baseball.
“Don’t worry. We’ll get our wins and we’ll get our hits. We’re not panicking yet.”
E-mail Steve Holley: firstname.lastname@example.org.