Diamondbacks bullpen spoils Gallen’s return in loss to Cubs
PHOENIX – Starting pitcher Zac Gallen made his triumphant return and gave the Arizona Diamondbacks over five innings of dominance on the mound.
However, Arizona’s bullpen woes continued as closer Joakim Soria blew his second save in five opportunities resulting in a 4-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs at Chase Field on Saturday afternoon.
“It’s like biting on an onion,” manager Torey Lovullo said about the D-backs ninth inning meltdown.
“It’s hard to describe the feeling. And it hurts and it’s painful, but we feel this way because we care. We should let it burn a little bit,” Lovullo added.
Arizona starters have now allowed two runs or fewer in seven of the team’s last eight games, but despite the effort the D-backs are 3-4 in those games.
Gallen was reactivated from the injured list earlier in the day, and much like his teammate Madison Bumgarner on Friday, was in midseason form upon his return.
After giving up a single to the first batter of the game Willson Contreras, Gallen was dialed in and sat down the next three batters in order, including a strike out of Javier Baez.
The D-backs starter was controlling the strike zone with a mid-90s four-seam fastball, and mixing it up with sliders, change ups and some nasty knuckle curves.
Gallen was dealing through five innings. But after getting pinch hitter Eric Sogard to ground out to lead off the sixth, he seemed to struggle with his command and it quickly escalated on him.
He gave up a single to Contreras and walked Anthony Rizzo with one out. After a mound visit, Baez then brought in the Cubs first run of the game with an RBI double.
Gallen stayed in the game and battled through the next batter with two on, getting Kris Bryant to ground into a 5-2 fielder’s choice that kept a run from scoring and tying the game.
But with the lead on the line, Lovullo went to his bullpen and ended Gallen’s outing after 5.2 innings and 77 pitches.
Gallen seemed to be displeased with the decision in the moment and admitted he tried to talk his way into staying in the game.
“Obviously, I didn’t make a great pitch to Baez, but I made a good pitch to Bryant,” Gallen said. “Escobar made a good play, made the play at home, and I was figuring with two outs I felt like I pitched Heyward pretty well today, so it was a decent matchup.
“I just felt pretty confident in the stuff I had to execute pitches. Torey felt otherwise and he makes the final say.”
It was the D-backs second great outing in a row by a returning starting pitcher. Gallen gave up three hits and one earned run with seven strikeouts, two walks, and a hit batter.
“He was fantastic,” Lovullo said on Gallen’s performance. “He was in control of every inning. He was right at towing that pitch count line. I’m sure you saw it, his frustration with coming out of the game.
“I probably have a different approach than some, but I like that. I like guys pushing back, I like guys letting me know how they feel, and I don’t want guys wanting to come out of baseball games. Taking [Gallen] out of the game was a little bit of a challenge, but he put us in a position to win that baseball game. He did his job; it was time to turn it over to the bullpen.”
While the offense still wasn’t very productive, they managed to get some hits as a team and put some runs on the board.
Christian Walker and David Peralta gave them an early lead by starting the second inning with a pair of back-to-back singles. Peralta scored on a ground out by Nick Ahmed.
After that, their bats went ice cold again. Cubs starting pitcher Adbert Alzolay had three clean innings against the D-backs starting lineup and kept Arizona off the base path for most of his outing.
However, Ahmed, Daulton Varsho, and Josh Rojas were able to string together some singles in the fifth, with Ahmed scoring on a Rojas RBI single to give Arizona a short lived two-run lead.
The D-backs bullpen held strong for three innings with a one-run lead after Gallen exited the game. Joe Mantiply, Brett de Geus, and Noe Ramirez kept the Cubs from scoring and maintained the lead through eight.
In the ninth, Soria came in for the save. With two outs and Cubs fans exiting the building, he gave up a double to Rafael Ortega followed by an RBI single to pinch hitter Robinson Chirinos that tied the game at two.
With the game tied, the man that started the day off for the Cubs at the plate finished it as Contreras hit a monster two-run homer that put the Cubs by two.
With 19 pitches, Soria gave up three hits and three earned runs with one strikeout and a blown save.
The D-backs were unable to answer in the bottom of the inning.
“I can’t be any more frustrated right now than yesterday or days past,” Lovullo added. “We just got to put together all areas of our ballclub and play consistent baseball. That includes starting pitching, and we’re getting that.”
The D-backs will look to their stopper once again as Merrill Kelly will be on the hill looking to prevent the three-game sweep. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 40 minutes earlier on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station.
Kelly has been outstanding as of late, posting a 2.05 ERA and a 3-0 record in his last five starts. This will be his second career start against the Cubs.