Diamondbacks’ Zac Gallen dials back heat, gets outdueled by Braves’ Chris Sale in loss

Jul 9, 2024, 11:20 PM | Updated: 11:24 pm

Zac Gallen throws a pitch...

Zac Gallen #23 of the Arizona Diamondbacks delivers a first inning pitch against the Atlanta Braves at Chase Field on July 09, 2024 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — In Tuesday’s aces duel between Arizona’s Zac Gallen and Atlanta’s Chris Sale, the Braves capitalized on timely power that eluded the Diamondbacks for a 6-2 victory.

Braves outfielder Adam Duvall nailed an 0-2 knuckle curveball at the knees way over the fence in left to end Gallen’s outing in the sixth inning. The Braves took a 5-0 lead with four earned runs charged to the D-backs starter, who threw 105 pitches — his most since April 8.

“I wasn’t looking necessarily for a swing-and-miss, I was looking for a double play, honestly,” Gallen said of the Duvall homer. “I was trying to have it right below the zone. Maybe just sequencing a little differently might’ve worked out in my favor. The pitch count was getting up there, it was getting close to the end for me. So, I was just trying to get out there with a double play.”

Sale threw 69 pitches through three innings, but nine strikeouts helped him keep crooked numbers off the board. The D-backs tagged Sale with two runs in the sixth inning, but the 2024 All-Star pitcher stranded four runners in scoring position over the first three innings in what could have been a very different ballgame.

Gallen was no longer throwing 98-mph heaters like his last start at Dodger Stadium, dialing it back to regain command. The fastball velocity dropped closer to normal at 94 mph on average. He threw more curveballs than fastballs, which worked for much of the night.

After a 36-pitch second inning impacted by poor defense — a passed ball by catcher Gabriel Moreno and a dropped line drive by second baseman Ketel Marte — Gallen threw three scoreless innings and retired nine straight hitters. It just happened to coincide with Sale striking out five of seven hitters in a stretch that brought the pitcher’s duel that was promised by the matchup.

“I was probably pitching maybe at 90%. Trying to be a little bit more under control, not less intent,” Gallen said. “I was a little out of control on the last start, and fastball command kind of suffered a little bit. Just trying to tone it back a little bit and be in the strike zone. I know the velo is in there … when I need to reach back.”

Atlanta built the sixth inning with a one-out Matt Olson double off a fastball over the middle. Marcell Ozuna grounded a low curveball into left for a single on a full count to bring up Duvall.

Gallen threw Duval a curveball, slider and curveball in the same spot at the bottom of the zone, and Duvall sent the final pitch back 441 feet.

“I was going batter to batter,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “Somewhere between 105 and 107 pitches was gonna be my limit with him. I just felt like he could get that out. … I felt like he threw the ball really well. He was two outs away from a quality start. He got things really under control outside of that second inning, so I felt like it was his game.”

Ketel Marte frustration

A run scored on the Marte error, a liner by Orlando Arcia that escaped the top of Marte’s webbing.

Lovullo went to speak with Marte in the dugout, and the All-Star slammed multiple bats in frustration.

“I went down and talked to him a little bit, I know he’s upset,” Lovullo said. “I feel like he was upset that he didn’t make the play and he let the team down in that moment. … Just wanted to get his head right.”

Offense flattens

The D-backs finished 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, no one had multiple hits and the top four hitters had a combined 3-for-15 showing. Sale walked three hitters to create scoring chances, but it was a second straight flat day for the offense after such an impactful road trip (50 runs in six games).

Arizona canceled batting practice on Tuesday to give the hitters a blow.

“I think we punched an emotional ticket for two straight series that weren’t easy games,” Lovullo said. “They were very grinding games, and we played very well. I just think we emotionally were a little bit gassed out. So, I wanted to get them off the field today and give them a little recharge. Unfortunately, it didn’t work.”

Atlanta secured at least a series split in this four-game set, as the D-backs fell back to two games under a .500 mark that has been quite the hurdle. Charlie Morton and Max Fried are next in line for Atlanta, veterans with sub-4.00 ERAs and All-Star pedigrees.

Arizona’s Slade Cecconi will start Wednesday despite considerations to use an opener.


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