Gallen feeling 'pretty close' to his best after another gem

May 12th, 2024

BALTIMORE -- The D-backs boarded their chartered aircraft headed home after a six-game trip to Cincinnati and Baltimore feeling a lot better about themselves and, not coincidentally, playing much better baseball than the last time they were in the desert.

The dry, warm air will be a welcome change from the chilly and rainy temperatures they faced over the last week. But with a 4-2 record in their carry-on bags, no one was about to complain about the weather, even with Sunday’s 9-2 win over the Orioles delayed by 33 minutes due to rain in the top of the eighth.

The D-backs swept the Reds at Great American Ball Park before dropping two tightly contested games at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. While going 3-3 would have been acceptable to them, winning Sunday seemed important.

“I think any time you can salvage a series on the third day, it's big,” infielder Kevin Newman said. “Now, [we’re] taking it into this homestand that we’re going to have now and hopefully, we’ll build on it and get some wins at home.”

Beset by injuries, the D-backs stumbled out of the gate. Bullpen struggles and a wildly inconsistent offense had them bottom out a week ago on Saturday, when the Padres beat them, 13-1.

But the D-backs rebounded in the finale of that homestand and then swept the Reds, giving them a four-game winning streak, the first time they had won more than two straight games all year.

Even the first two losses in the Orioles series -- a 4-2 defeat on Friday, then coming ever so close to winning on Saturday before falling in 11 innings, 5-4 -- had them feeling good because at least they were playing better.

“I can stomach those types of games,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “When we walk off the field and we got beat by the opposition and not the D-backs, I can go to sleep at night, and we've been doing that more so lately. We’ve been playing good baseball.”

The trip started out with a win by ace and it wrapped up with one, too. After holding the Reds scoreless for six innings, Gallen held the tougher Orioles lineup to two runs over six innings.

Gallen lobbied to stay in the game longer, but with a big lead, Lovullo stuck to his season-long policy of not extending Gallen so as to have him fresh for September and, hopefully, October.

"He’s a really good starting pitcher, and he’s proven himself for a while now and had a great postseason,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said of Gallen. “He’s just got fastball command, he’s got a really good changeup, he can dump a breaking ball in when he wants to. So he really keeps guys off-balance well and just knows how to pitch."

Though he finished third in National League Cy Young Award voting last year, Gallen never felt like he fully found the form he had in 2022. For him, it’s always about searching for that perfect combination of mechanics and stuff so that the ball feels good coming out of his hand and also does what it’s supposed to do.

“It's getting pretty close,” Gallen said. “Starting to feel a lot like the feeling I've been searching for. First four innings, I felt pretty locked in, and then the last two just kind of grinded through, but it’s feeling a lot more [like] how I felt in 2022.”

And finally, a month and a half into the season, the D-backs are starting to feel like they did in 2023.