Zac Gallen’s refreshing return is what Diamondbacks needed to end skid

Jun 29, 2024, 5:47 PM

Zac Gallen...

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Zac Gallen throws against the Oakland Athletics during the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, June 29, 2024, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo sat the podium postgame, smiled and said “It sure is good to have him back.” Zac Gallen, after missing a month due to a hamstring strain, outclassed the Oakland Athletics with six scoreless innings in a 3-0 win.

Gallen was electric, firing a couple 97 mph heaters for the first time in his career. The A’s (30-55) were no match for his knuckle-curveball or his changeup, which drew eight whiffs and led to seven strikeouts. Oakland’s only hit off Gallen was a jam-shot flare just beyond second baseman Blaze Alexander’s glove in shallow center.

Gallen’s pitch count was around 85 coming in, and the right hander efficiently pushed through 18 outs with 77 pitches. There have only been five starts by D-backs pitchers to go six scoreless innings this year. Gallen now has four.

“Felt like I had everything going … fastball, changeup, slider, curveball, felt like they were all there for the most part,” Gallen said. “Felt like the things I’ve been working on, just delivery-wise, had clicked.

“Arm felt pretty live. Stuff felt sharp. I was pleased. I felt pretty good for the last two weeks or so but just glad it kind of all came to fruition and I was able to help us get a win.”

Gallen used adrenaline to explain the uptick in velocity, but he also noted an adjustment with his back foot to attack the plate more efficiently.

“Hopefully the velo carries, it’s always nice to throw a little bit harder,” Gallen said.

The performance helped end Arizona’s (40-43) three-game losing streak.

Zac Gallen stays locked in during rehab

Lovullo commended the All-Star’s work behind the scenes to stay ready. The two had what Lovullo felt was a great conversation about the process on Friday, and the manager came away from it feeling Gallen had not wasted any time.

Gallen said as important as getting his hamstring right was staying mentally locked in as if it were spring training and he was preparing for Opening Day. Gallen felt in 2021 he was not 100% there mentally when he came off the injured list. He looked to change that this time.

“It’s easy to fall in a trap at Salt River,” Gallen said. “You’re in there pretty early, you’re out there pretty early, so you can kind of fall in that trap of not staying ready, especially with a short-term injury. I kind of just went there and had mentally prepared to pitch this past Tuesday and just tried to stay locked in as best I could.

“I didn’t try and fall into the routine of being in rehab. I don’t want to say I did my own thing. I was just trying to stay on routine.”

He left the game with a 3-0 lead, giving Lovullo options to piece the final three innings together. Kevin Ginkel recorded the next six outs, and Paul Sewald had little trouble with a 1-2-3 ninth inning for the save.

Arizona threw 110 pitches total on Saturday. It threw 195 on Friday in a 9-4 loss to Oakland when Slade Cecconi lasted only four innings. The D-backs tallied 174 pitches in Thursday’s 13-6 loss to the Twins when Jordan Montgomery went 2.2 innings.

The Diamondbacks have struggled to get length from their starting rotation with Eduardo Rodriguez and Merrill Kelly on the IL, especially since Gallen went down. Arizona’s 115 innings in June from starters entering Saturday was the fourth fewest in MLB.

Gallen said he felt he did the team a disservice by getting injured despite it being out of his control.

“I was trying to get back as fast as I really could, come back and help the boys, get back in my spot in the rotation and do my job, give us a chance to win every every five days,” Gallen said. “I took it personal having to put a lot of weight on on guys who probably weren’t expecting to have that much pressure.”

Arizona’s most reliable starter aside from Gallen, Brandon Pfaadt, will take the hill to give the D-backs a chance to win the series on Sunday.

Ketel Marte, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. stay hot

Marte, on his bat flip bobblehead day that drew 39,843 fans, went 3-for-4 with a walk and an RBI. The All-Star Game hopeful is 9-for-18 over his last five games.

Gurriel also collected two hits, including an RBI double. He has collected multiple hits in eight of his last 10 games.

The offense racked up 12 hits and four walks but failed to put the game away. That’s the benefit of strong starting pitching. The story of this game could have been the missed chances. Instead, Arizona earned its first win with three runs scored since May 25.

Was it fair or foul?

An early moment of contention came with a missed call in the first inning. Christian Walker appeared to have doubled home Gurriel from first base, but the call on the field was a foul ball. Arizona challenged and won, as Walker’s fly ball hit the yellow padding in the left-field corner. Gurriel had to go back to third base, however, and he was stranded.

“He said that I can’t argue. We spent most of the time arguing why I couldn’t argue,” Lovullo said of his conversations with the umpire. “So he asked me if I want to get thrown out, and I said, ‘Yes, I do.’ And then he said ‘Are you sure.’ And I said, ‘No, I’m not.’ And I just turned around like a good doggy and got back in the dugout.

“I would have argued the play was completed. … I don’t know what the rationale was. I would have been thrown out of the game.”

Diamondbacks-Athletics finale

First pitch on Sunday is at 1:10 p.m. before the D-backs hit the road for series at the Dodgers and Padres. Oakland will start right-hander Luis Medina.

Catch the game on 98.7 and the Arizona Sports app. 

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