Diamondbacks’ Zac Gallen burned by home runs, misfortune in Game 5 loss to Phillies

Oct 21, 2023, 10:48 PM | Updated: 11:01 pm

PHOENIX — Arizona Diamondbacks ace Zac Gallen faced early misfortune, hit a groove and found himself on the wrong end of two titanic home runs in an NLCS Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday at Chase Field.

Gallen allowed a pair of runs in the first inning, but kept the D-backs competitive down 2-0 entering then sixth.

But Phillies sluggers Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper did what they do best: Blasting a pair of baseballs a combined 905 feet to extend the lead in a 6-1 victory to take a 3-2 series lead.

Saturday was the second time this series they’ve gone yard off Gallen in the same inning, with the first being in Game 1. Philadelphia’s Zack Wheeler, like Game 1, kept the D-backs off the scoreboard outside one home run, a solo shot by Alek Thomas in the seventh inning.

Despite throwing four hitless innings during a stretch of the game, Gallen was handed his second loss of the series and has allowed nine runs over 11 frames against Philadelphia.

“Once he got down a couple of runs, I thought he got into a nice rhythm in innings two through six,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. “He did give us a chance to get grounded and get into that neutral corner and come back out and score some runs. … He just made some mistakes in the last inning of work, and that score went from 2-0 to 4-0 real quick, and that’s what can happen when you make mistakes.”

Zac Gallen not thrilled with first inning

Schwarber led off with a slow dribble to the left side with the infield shifted over, Harper singled and Schwarber scored on a two-out single by Bryson Stott on a curveball below the knees.

The Phillies then stole the run, although the D-backs assisted with it.

Philadelphia had Stott take off for second base with Harper on third. D-backs catcher Gabriel Moreno threw down, and second baseman Ketel Marte cut it off. Harper took off for home, and Marte’s throw beat him.

But he threw a short hop to Moreno, who had to pick with a catcher’s mitt and Harper hauling down the line right at him. The ball skipped away and Harper barreled over Moreno, who stayed in the game after getting checked out by training staff.

“We work on that a lot,” Lovullo said. “I think if we just play pitch and catch and he drives the throw into home plate and gives Gabi a chance to catch that ball and lay the tag down on Harper, he is out by 8-10 feet.”

“I think everyone can see that in the playoffs it’s about momentum,” Gallen said. “Already facing a hole, I wasn’t too thrilled with that, really. I just tried to keep it where it was to give us a shot.”

Gallen forced a double play in the second inning to kickstart a stretch of 11 straight retired batters. The Diamondbacks failed during this stretch to cut into the lead against Wheeler, who had eight strikeouts through six innings.

Schwarber, Harper crush Gallen

The two home runs broke the game open and both shots cleared the fence by a mile. Schwarber crushed a hanging 2-0 curveball 461 feet and Harper climbed the ladder to drive a high fastball 444 feet.

Gallen explained he tried to use the knuckle curve to get back in the count but he left it up. The fastball to Harper he felt was set up well, but it could have been place higher in hindsight.

“They’re just a good lineup, really, and they capitalized on the mistakes I made,” Gallen said. “I think sometimes as a pitcher, some outings you throw really well you get away with some mistakes. That’s the team that doesn’t miss mistakes. As a pitcher, you’re gonna make mistakes. You just try to minimize them and hope the ones you do make you’re lucky with.”

Schwarber and Harper have combined for 22 homer over the last two postseasons, the most combined by a duo in a two-playoffs span in league history, according to ESPN Stats and Info. Schwarber has five home runs this series alone.

Gallen didn’t miss many bats in Game 5, his first outing all year with one strikeout.

Philadelphia had an 85% zone contact rate and 28% outside zone swing percentage. The first inning encapsulated the good that came from putting the ball in play a lot.

To compare with Wheeler, the D-backs made contact on 87% of zone swings but with a 43% chase rate.

Gallen faced some tough bounces compared to Wheeler, who allowed hard contact throughout his start but stranded runners.

Wheeler produced much more swing and miss, though, with 18 whiffs. He came up with a critical strikeout of D-backs first baseman Christian Walker with runners on the corners and one down in the first inning, leading to a scoreless frame and no momentum for Arizona.

Wheeler through two games against the D-backs tossed 13 innings with three earned runs and 16 strikeouts.

The Diamondbacks face elimination but get their No. 2 Merrill Kelly on the bump to face Aaron Nola for the second time.

Gallen expressed his confidence that Arizona can overcome yet another bout of adversity.

“This team is resilient,” Gallen said. “Even tonight, we got runners on in the ninth inning. We play 27 outs. I don’t think anyone thought this was going to be an easy task. I have faith in the guys. … They grind and they do what they can, I just didn’t give them a chance tonight.”

The D-backs are 0-3 this series with Gallen and Kelly pitching, a testament to Philadelphia’s top of the rotation and an amazing feat that the D-backs remain alive despite this.

They were 3-0 with those two on the bump entering the NLCS.

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