Best way to end a skid? Hand the ball to Gallen

May 20th, 2022

CHICAGO -- When he showed up to the visitor's clubhouse at Wrigley Field, D-backs right-hander Zac Gallen was aware of what rested on his shoulders as Thursday night's starting pitcher.

The D-backs were coming off a series in which they were swept in four games over three days at Dodger Stadium, pushing their losing streak to six games.

The starting rotation -- the part of the team that had fueled the D-backs' recent run to better than .500 -- had gone into the series with a 2.51 ERA, second best in all of baseball. Over the four games with the Dodgers, the rotation had an 11.88 ERA.

Someone had to put a stop to it, and Gallen was determined to be the guy who did, coming through as the winning pitcher in the D-backs' 3-1 victory. His ERA is 1.14 through seven starts, the second-best mark in franchise history, only trailing Randy Johnson's 0.93 ERA though seven starts in 2000.

"It's something that [manager Torey Lovullo] talked about last year, just that he trusted me to try and be that stopper, you know, if things aren't going well or they're going south or whatever," Gallen said. "So I take a lot of pride in that to try and at least give a shot to stay in the game and win the game. So yeah, I definitely wanted to take on that responsibility."

As he warmed up and the game got started, Gallen didn't feel sharp, but you couldn't tell by watching him pitch. He cruised through the first three innings before allowing a run in the fourth.

By that point, the D-backs had already scored three runs and Gallen seemed ready to cruise for the next few innings.

The Cubs worked Gallen hard in the fifth, drawing two walks and a hit-by-pitch. After taking just 48 pitches to get through the first four innings, Gallen had to throw 40 in the fifth alone with the Cubs fouling off a whopping 18 pitches.

"I felt like I made some pretty decent pitches," Gallen said. "You know, probably nine times out of 10, one of those pitches gets put in play whether they're outs or hits or whatever happens. They just put together some tough at-bats."

When he got Ian Happ to ground out to end the inning after Happ saw nine pitches (fouling off seven), he screamed as he stomped off the mound toward the dugout.

Once he got there, he had another battle on his hands. This was one he was not going to win.

Lovullo told his right-hander that he was not going to send him back out for the sixth after throwing so many pitches in the fifth.

"It was a little bit of a wrestling match between he and I," Lovullo said. "He wanted to go back out, which I always appreciate. I knew he jumped 40 pitches. Like I said, I'm concerned about the human being at that point. I don't want to put him in a situation where he's going to be injured. So it's tough taking him out, he wanted to go back out, he felt like he was just catching a groove, but I wasn't going to have it."

Gallen wanted one more inning so the bullpen, which had been taxed recently, would have one less inning to cover. But in the end, he knew it was the right decision.

"Torey is always looking out for my health," Gallen said. "So in that sense, I appreciate it, but I always want the ball no matter what."

By that point, Gallen had already accomplished what the D-backs hoped he would. He had righted the ship with the starting rotation and put his team in position to end the losing streak.