Zac Gallen struggles with command in 1st start, but D-backs beat Padres
For the second game in a row, the Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher did not get into the fifth inning against the San Diego Padres.
Zac Gallen threw 88 pitches over four innings, only 46 of which were strikes.
Gallen walked five batters. Seven hitters worked him to a full count. He was up to 48 pitches after two innings and threw 40 more over the next two.
“I was just rushing. First start, just kind of knocking the rust off, seeing another team in there,” he said in a Zoom call after the game. “That was really the biggest thing. I got the first one out of the way, so nothing I’m too worried about.”
He got the first start out of the way, and the D-backs got their first win. They had a late comeback to take the 4-3 victory over the Padres.
Even with Gallen’s high pitch count and lack of location, he limited the damage on the scoreboard to just one run.
After walking the bases loaded in the first inning, Gallen escaped without allowing a run. There were two on in the second, but the Padres could not score. In the third inning Eric Hosmer, who has been destroying the Diamondbacks, hit a home run, but Gallen retired the three other batters that inning.
He then struck out the side in the fourth — after walking the leadoff batter in a 10-pitch battle.
The one pitch that worked really well for Gallen was his knuckle curve. Sixteen of the 19 he threw were strikes, according to the ESPN game tracker, and five of the 12 outs Gallen got were retired on knuckle curves.
That success amplifies the struggle of command with his other pitches, particularly his fastball and cutter. Only 30 pitches that weren’t knuckle curves were strikes, and 69 were balls.
“One thing I kind of learned last year was that some of my better outings, I was using the curveball a lot and it was effective,” Gallen said. “(Catcher) Carson (Kelly) said it looked good back there. I felt good locating it, throwing it to pretty much any spot, so it was something I just stuck with.”
Gallen finished with a line of one run, two hits and six strikeouts — which looks very good — but he had five walks, and of course, needed 88 pitches to get through four innings.
“I just thought there was too many pitches thrown per inning … I just couldn’t send him back out for the fifth at this point in time for the year,” manager Torey Lovullo said.
“I thought he threw the ball well. A lot of pitches, but he gave up only one run over four innings, and that deserves some consideration for doing your job.”
The D-backs trailed 1-0 when Alex Young came in to relieve Gallen to start the fifth.
Young pitched two innings of scoreless ball and was replaced in the seventh after the leadoff man reached on error. Kevin Ginkel finished the inning and Andrew Chafin pitched to three batters before Archie Bradley came in for the final five outs, picking up the win in his first appearance as a closer.