Gallen seeking answers amid tough stretch

Right-hander struggles during contentious 5th in D-backs' loss to Rockies

July 9th, 2022

PHOENIX -- After his last start against the Rockies, Zac Gallen was angry, borderline furious, with how his outing fell apart in the sixth inning and the D-backs ended up losing, saying it's a game they should win "100 times out of 100."

Following his start Friday night, the right-hander had company in the anger department, particularly from his manager, as Gallen's start went sideways in the fifth and the D-backs fell, 6-5, once again to the Rockies.

The D-backs built a 4-2 lead through four innings, and Gallen seemed to be in a good spot. In the fifth, though, his command deserted him, as he walked three, hit a batter and gave up a double as the Rockies scored twice to tie the game.

In his previous outing, Gallen had a 5-0 lead going into the sixth before Colorado put up a three-spot. And in his start before that, he went four scoreless before the Padres touched him up for six runs in the fifth.

"I'm not really sure," Gallen said when asked if he could pinpoint what happened. "It's pretty frustrating. Pretty deflating, honestly. It's the third one in a row. It's cruise through four or five, and then in the last inning, a big hit or big inning, whatever it is. Definitely something I've been trying to figure out what the deal is. It's just another thing to add to the list, just going to dive into and see what I can figure out."

The Rockies' fifth-inning runs came when Gallen walked Brendan Rodgers with the bases loaded, then hit C.J. Cron with a pitch in the left wrist.

While Gallen was clearly not intending to hit Cron and force home the tying run, it marked the seventh time in two years the D-backs have hit Cron with a pitch, including twice in the head. They've also hit him two times in Spring Training games over that span.

"I don't wonder why," Cron said. "I mean, I know why. It's kind of the scouting report on me, it's up and in, and they're not afraid to really get that target in there. I don't believe any of them were on purpose, necessarily, but at the same time, [seven] times in a year-and-a-half is, in my opinion, a lot. So it is what it is."

In the bottom of the fifth, Rockies starter Chad Kuhl retired the first two batters, then sailed a fastball behind Daulton Varsho. That prompted the umpires to issue warnings to both benches, and Arizona manager Torey Lovullo came out to argue that Kuhl should be ejected for intentionally throwing at Varsho. Rockies manager Bud Black then came out on the field to argue things from his point of view.

Lovullo was still angry after the game had ended.

"I don’t like that type of baseball," Lovullo said. "You guys have been around me a long time. It seemed to me there was clear intent by their pitcher, who went rogue. I don’t know if he was told to go rogue and try and throw at our batter, the first batter when he got two outs. I thought that was the design of it.

"That’s my opinion. I think if you were to poll a lot of baseball people, they would say the exact same thing. I don’t like my players getting thrown at. ... And I just didn’t understand why their pitcher wasn’t ejected. That was my argument."

Black said that Kuhl just "pulled a fastball" that got behind Varsho. As for what Black was upset about, he cited the number of times Cron had been hit by the D-backs the past two years.

While the umpires chose not to throw Kuhl out, Lovullo said he hopes Major League Baseball takes some action.

"I will say this, the league does a really nice job of jumping in and identifying these types of situations," Lovullo said. "I hope that they pay very close attention to this situation and review it and make the right decision."

Regardless, the biggest takeaway for the D-backs is figuring out a way to help Gallen avoid mid-inning struggles.

"I think Zac is a very cerebral worker," Lovullo said. "He’s going to find his way to get through that."