Gallen saves best for last with no-hit bid in Game 5

Right-hander holds Texas to 1 run but gets no run support, sealing D-backs' World Series fate

November 2nd, 2023

PHOENIX -- As Zac Gallen walked off the mound in the seventh inning of Game 5 of the World Series on Wednesday night, his warmup song, “Let the Beat Build” by Lil Wayne, blared through the speakers at Chase Field. A symphony of cheers from the sellout crowd greeted him as he stepped into the D-backs dugout.

The 28-year-old, whom D-backs fans have seen emerge into one of the best starters in the Majors, orchestrated the game of his life. With Arizona’s backs against the wall, Gallen carried a no-hit bid into the seventh inning. His final line of the 2023 season: 6 1/3 innings, one run on three hits and six strikeouts.

Gallen’s brilliant outing did more than enough to put the D-backs in position to win, but the offense didn’t back him up. Arizona lost, 5-0, to the Rangers, and the team fell short of capturing its first World Series championship since 2001.

“It was everything that he could possibly give us and then some,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “I was watching Zac the way everybody else was. … He answered the bell. He came out fighting, and he was slugging it out.”

Gallen made the Rangers’ hitters look silly out of the gate. He needed only 35 pitches to blow through the first four frames, the fewest pitches through four innings in a World Series game since at least 2000. He recorded 14 consecutive outs to start the game.

The right-hander needed to be sharp not just to contain the Rangers' potent offense, but to be able to keep up with postseason sensation Nathan Eovaldi.

“[I was] grinding throughout the week, just trying to make adjustments,” Gallen said. “I made a pretty good adjustment coming into a game that I felt solid, was able to execute pitches. I knew going against Eovaldi that I was going to have to match him pitch for pitch and try to do the best I could.”

Gallen’s no-hit bid was broken up in the seventh inning, when Corey Seager -- the Willie Mays World Series MVP -- hit an opposite-field single. Seager scored two batters later on Mitch Garver’s single. Gallen struck out Josh Jung on three pitches in the following at-bat before being pulled, closing the chapter of his dominant 2023 season.

“When I walked in this ballpark today, I knew that Zac was going to be our starting pitcher, and I felt really good about it,” Lovullo said. “I know what's inside of him. I know where his heart is. And he didn't let us down.”

Gallen has been Arizona’s rock all season. He’s the guy that has been marketed throughout the Valley. He started the All-Star Game in Seattle this season, becoming the first D-backs pitcher to do so since 2002.

But when the first big moments arrived in the postseason, Gallen wasn’t quite the same dominant pitcher. In two crucial games in the National League Championship Series, Gallen allowed nine runs in 11 innings.

As the calendar flipped to November, the ghosts that haunted Gallen in October vanished. He was a beacon of hope among all the darkness the D-backs had endured in Games 3 and 4.

“You can get to this stage and you don't care about the personal accolades or personal accomplishments, really,” Gallen said. “You just want to do what you can to give the team a chance to win and give the city something to be proud of."

Gallen was 6 years old when the D-backs won their first Fall Classic. Back then, pitchers Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling stole the show for the team with their heroic efforts, which ultimately saw the duo win World Series co-MVP Awards.

Gallen may not have walked away with a win in this decisive Game 5, but a new moment in D-backs history was born. He gave the Arizona fans one last pulse and one last memory in the improbable 2023 magical season in the heart of the desert.

“I love every one of the guys in this room,” Gallen said. “This journey has been unbelievable. Obviously, it's not going to end the way we want it to. But if I know the guys in this room, it's going to fire them up and it's going to motivate them. So I'm excited for things to come.

“This ride has been incredible.”