D-backs’ Zac Gallen battles, Justin Martinez picks up 1st save in win over Padres

Aug 17, 2023, 9:16 PM | Updated: 10:21 pm

Zac Gallen...

Zac Gallen #23 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches against the San Diego Padres during the first inning at PETCO Park on August 17, 2023 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Orlando Ramirez/Getty Images)

(Photo by Orlando Ramirez/Getty Images)

The Arizona Diamondbacks turned to 22-year-old Justin Martinez fresh from a Triple-A recall for a four-out save Thursday night against the top of the San Diego Padres’ lineup.

Martinez, filling in for a taxed bullpen, struck out Jake Cronenworth looking on a splitter to collect his first MLB save in his fifth career appearance, sealing a 3-1 win at Petco Park.

Zac Gallen battled through 6.1 one-run innings despite facing consistent hard contact to keep Arizona in position to win, and a pair of long balls by Tommy Pham and Gabriel Moreno was all it took.

The D-backs (62-60) have won three straight games and five of their last six, three of which have come against San Diego (58-64).

“That was a pretty intense atmosphere. Our dugout erupted after that final strike was called,” manager Torey Lovullo said postgame.

“We were all really excited for (Martinez). It was a good moment for this team. This team is playing good baseball. To be honest, we’re gassed. I know this group is very tired coming out of the altitude in Colorado. This was a fatigued team today that went out there and won a baseball game and that’s what I’m most proud of.”

Gallen cruised at 34 pitches through three innings, but the Padres made him work in the fourth and fifth innings with 50 pitches, 29 in the fifth.

A miscommunication and near collision between Pham and Alek Thomas in left-center field allowed Cronenworth to reach second to lead off the fifth on a double. Trent Grisham brought the runner in with a line-drive single to right.

Gallen kept the Padres right there and grinded through six innings with 97 pitches. Manager Torey Lovullo sent Gallen back out for the seventh, considering Arizona used seven pitchers on Wednesday after a bullpen game on Tuesday against the Colorado Rockies and needed length from its starter.

Xander Bogaerts led off with a liner right to shortstop Nick Ahmed, and Lovullo pulled Gallen at 100 pitches. He ended the night with 6.1 innings, one run, three hits, one walk and three strikeouts.

San Diego’s average exit velocity against him was 97.3 mph, and Gallen produced only three swings and misses. Regardless, it was his sixth straight outing of at least six innings and the Diamondbacks held a lead at the end of his start.

“We had taxed our bullpen pretty good the last couple of days so this was a game I knew I had to go as far as I possibly should,” Gallen said. “I didn’t feel particularly sharp early. It was just trying to stay in counts, reduce some contact and get some outs.”

Arizona took the lead in the fourth inning, as Pham laced a middle-middle fastball from Padres starter Rich Hill 430 feet to left-center for a two-run shot. It was his second homer as a D-back and 12th of the year. Pham has five extra-base hits and eight runs batted in over his last six contests and is riding an eight-game hitting streak.

Moreno gave the D-backs some insurance with an opposite-field solo home run inside the foul pole in the fifth inning. It was Moreno’s first home run since July 14, before he missed three weeks on the injured list with left shoulder inflammation. Thursday was his third start back.

At that point in the game, the two homers were the only D-backs hits, and it stayed that way until Ahmed dumped a double down the line in right to lead off the eighth inning. Both teams only had three hits all night.

Kyle Nelson was first out of the bullpen for Arizona and got four outs on three strikeouts after coming in for Zac Gallen.

Martinez — brought up from Triple-A Reno before the game with Luis Frias getting optioned — struck out Ha-Seong Kim looking with a 102 mph heater to end the eighth inning.

He came back out in the ninth and walked Fernando Tatis Jr. on four pitches to start the frame, causing pitching coach Brent Strom to come out for a visit. Juan Soto grounded into a fielder’s choice on a terrific play by second baseman Geraldo Perdomo, and Manny Machado struck out to follow.

After a second walk, Martinez fell behind 2-1 against Cronenworth after a pair of close calls. He battled back to end the game after a pair of 102 mph heaters set up the splitter.

Martinez threw 29 pitches and only 15 strikes but came up clutch for the D-backs looking to reset their relievers for the long weekend.

“A beautiful experience just to have the opportunity, right, and that it actually happened is a blessing,” Martinez said through an interpreter.

Closer Paul Sewald picked up saves in four of the last five games and was unavailable.

Martinez has eight career saves in the minors leagues and three more in the Arizona Fall League. He has been called up three times this season. The righty did not even pitch before getting optioned in his first stint, and he allowed seven earned runs in 3.1 innings in his second taste of the majors.

“I’m really proud of him,” Lovullo said. “Look, he got on a plane this morning in Reno and got here very, very early and his world was probably spinning super fast. As thin as we were in the bullpen, he had no idea what were looking to do with him tonight and he stepped up and did it and it was fun for us to watch.”

Wild card race update

There were only six games on the MLB slate Thursday, and the D-backs gained some ground in the National League Wild Card race.

Arizona ended the night one game back of the Chicago Cubs for the third spot and 2.5 games back of the San Francisco Giants for the second spot.

Storm watching

With Hurricane Hilary moving up Mexico’s Pacific coast, both teams are keeping an eye on the forecast for the weekend, particularly Sunday.

“Sunday is the last time we’ll play the Padres, so I think right now it’s in Major League Baseball’s hands as far as what buttons we can push and what buttons we can’t push,” Lovullo said. “We know the storm’s coming … and there’s a chance we could get washed out. I think it’s 50-50 right now.”

What’s next?

The second game of the four-game series begins Friday at 6:40 p.m. in San Diego.

Brandon Pfaadt will start for Arizona after he struck out a career-high eight hitters against the Padres on Sunday. San Diego will send veteran right-hander Seth Lugo to the mound. Lugo allowed two runs in five innings Sunday at Chase Field in a 5-4 Diamondbacks victory.

Merrill Kelly will match up with Yu Darvish on Saturday.

Catch first pitch Friday night on 98.7, the Arizona Sports app and 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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