Gotta be the shoes? Old cleats help Gallen build scoreless streak

At 21 2/3 innings, D-backs' ace nearly halfway to last year's tear

April 22nd, 2023

PHOENIX -- is going streaking again.

The right-hander continued his recent run of dominance as he tossed seven shutout innings against the Padres in the D-backs’ 9-0 victory Friday night at Chase Field.

Gallen allowed just two hits and did not walk a batter while striking out 11 and running his scoreless streak to 21 2/3 innings.

The right-hander is no stranger to such streaks, having compiled a stretch of 44 1/3 scoreless innings last year from Aug. 8 to Sept. 11. That streak was the longest in the Majors since Zack Greinke had one of 45 2/3 innings in 2015.

Coincidentally, the D-backs are commemorating that streak Saturday with Zac Gallen Bobblehead Night.

“I mean, my job is to go out there and try and throw up as many zeros as possible, keep us in the game, give us a chance to win,” Gallen said. “There's no secret sauce, really. In big spots, just kind of buckle down and try and make pitches.”

Gallen has had plenty of outstanding starts for the D-backs since coming over at the Trade Deadline in 2019, but Friday’s outing seemed to be at another level. He was able to locate all his pitches at any time.

The Padres took 52 swings against him and failed to make contact on 20 -- a career-high number of swings and misses for Gallen.

“That’s about as good as we’ve seen him,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s pitched some good games against us, but nothing like that. Real heavy offspeed. Threw a lot more changeups maybe than normally. Really good curveball. You’re hunting that fastball, then he throws a cutter. He really relied on his offspeed stuff.”

While Gallen says there is no secret sauce, there is a pretty potent recipe.

It starts with his relentless preparation, his attention to detail, meticulous game-planning and a competitive streak that drives him to constantly look for improvement.

Coming into the start against the Padres, Gallen had thrown seven shutout innings against the Brewers and another 6 2/3 against the Marlins. In those starts he allowed just five hits and one walk while striking out 18.

Yet, he was dissatisfied, still tinkering, still searching for something.

“The last two starts, Milwaukee and Miami, I felt OK,” Gallen said. “I didn’t feel great. I’ve been trying to iron out the kinks. For me, everything is very delivery based and very feel based. I felt like I had pretty good feel today going into the game. For me, it’s all about my foot.”

More specifically it was about his trail (right) foot. It would spin a bit too much during his delivery. A small thing, yes, but it impacted the way his pitches moved and therefore threw his command off slightly.

“So I went back to some old cleats from last year,” Gallen said. “It kind of gave me a better feel for the ground. I felt like I was standing a little bit more connected. Playing catch and throughout my delivery, I felt stronger and a little more powerful.

“I had been searching for it. I knew I was close. There were just certain points in time when I knew I was close, but I can’t put my finger on what exactly it is. I was watching some video. I started to get in the ballpark of what I thought it was.”

Now that he has the shoes figured out and his mechanics feel good and he’s riding another scoreless streak, he can relax a bit, right?

Ah, no.

“I’m always going to try to tweak something,” Gallen said. “I was talking about it last week, I try not to ride the wave; I try to figure out why the wave is going the way it is. That way I can stay on it as long as I can. Right above the wave, really. I’m always trying to figure something out, whatever it might be.”

The way he’s going right now, it’s the rest of the league that has some figuring out to do.