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ATL@MIL: Gallardo hurls a two-hit shutout

Yovani Gallardo's two-hit shutout on April 5 against the Braves seems like a distant memory. The struggles of his past two starts -- in which he lasted only five and 5 1/3 innings, respectively -- have left the Brewers puzzled about their young ace.

"I don't have any answers for it," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said after Gallardo got tagged for seven runs in his last outing against the Nationals. "He started off good, and then lost the command. I don't know what it is when Yo loses his command, because he had it all spring and he had it the first two games [of the regular season]. When he came out today, I thought he had it to begin with, and then he lost it."

Gallardo's full line from that April 17 outing -- seven runs on 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings -- is a far cry from his April 5 gem, or even his solid Opening Day effort in which he held the Reds to two runs in six innings. On Friday, Gallardo (1-1, 4.62 ERA) will look to rebound in Milwaukee's series opener against Houston and Nelson Figueroa (0-2, 7.31) at 7:10 p.m. CT at Miller Park.

In that last outing, Gallardo allowed two homers, both coming when he got behind in the count. The last one came on a 3-2 count after Gallardo had thrown three consecutive balls.

"I tried to go down and away and it ends up down and in. I'm pretty sure that's where he likes the ball," Gallardo said of the homer by Washington's Danny Espinosa. "It's one of those things where you try to overthrow, and he got it up in the air."

Unlike Gallardo, Figueroa isn't looking to forget his last start -- he's looking to build upon it. After two rough starts to open the season, Figueroa turned in a quality performance in his last outing, holding the Padres to three runs (two earned) in 6 2/3 innings on Saturday.

"I just wanted to bear down and make better pitches, and try to utilize my defense a little bit more and stop trying to do it all myself," Figueroa said afterward. "That was the game plan from the beginning, and I did a good job of executing."

Figueroa, who pitched for Milwaukee in 2002, is 3-2 with a 4.19 ERA in 12 appearances (four starts) against his former club.

It will also be a reunion for Houston's Bill Hall, who spent eight seasons with the Brewers. Hall has a sprained right ankle and will likely be a game-time decision.

"I pretty much played there my whole career, and there's always going to be something special about it anytime I go back there," Hall said. "Obviously, this will be my first time, and I don't know what to expect. I just know that I appreciated everything that happened there. I had a great time there, [played on] some great teams. I was part of the teams that turned the organization around, and I take pride in that. But now, I'm here, and I'm going in there to win."

Astros: Barmes nearing comeback
Clint Barmes began hitting soft tosses in the batting cages Tuesday, one day after an X-ray showed his broken left hand has almost healed, and the shortstop is optimistic he will return sooner rather than later.

"It felt great," Barmes said. "It was the first time going through all this that there wasn't any soreness. It felt very good. So I actually let it go, 100 percent swings. Still going through with the trainers the daily progress that they want me to, so they didn't let me do too much."

Barmes has been cleared for all baseball activities and will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Oklahoma City on Sunday. Barmes is expected to get three at-bats Sunday, four on Monday and four-plus on Tuesday.

Barmes injured the hand on March 25 after he was hit by a pitch in a Spring Training game.

Brewers: Braun continues hot streak
No matter who he's facing, Ryan Braun -- who signed a five-year extension Thursday -- continues to reach base. Entering Friday, Braun now has reached safely in each of the Brewers' first 18 games. The Elias Sports Bureau reports he is the first Brewers hitter to do so since Hall of Famer Paul Molitor reached in the first 19 games in 1991. The club record belongs to Robin Yount, who reached safely in the Brewers' first 23 games in 1983.

In the Philadelphia series, Braun hit well against Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, including a 2-for-3 performance with a home run against Halladay. Asked whether he simply sees the ball well against Halladay, Braun said, "When I'm going well, I see the ball well against everybody."

• After allowing only an infield single in three innings in his first rehab start for Class A Brevard County, Zack Greinke will be back with the team in Milwaukee before making his next start. He was scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Thursday's off-day.

• LaTroy Hawkins, who has been out since Aug. 10, 2010, after undergoing season-ending surgery on his right shoulder, should be activated from the disabled list before Friday's game.

Worth noting
• With Wednesday's loss, Milwaukee missed a chance to post its first sweep in Philadelphia. The Brewers are 15-32 all-time in Philly.

• Gallardo is 7-2 with a 3.05 ERA in nine career starts against Houston.

• Hall is one of two active Major League players to start at least 125 games at four positions. St. Louis outfielder Lance Berkman is the other active player to accomplish the feat.

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