Gallen vs. Verlander lives up to hype as D-backs emerge in 10th

September 29th, 2022

HOUSTON -- Zac Gallen wasn't going to try and hide it or downplay it: Pitching against Astros ace Justin Verlander was a big deal for him.

The D-backs right-hander had studied Verlander over the years and watched as he won a pair of Cy Young Awards and an MVP. He talked about him with pitching coach Brent Strom, who had worked with Verlander in Houston before joining the D-backs this offseason.

Gallen matched Verlander for seven innings Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park before the D-backs pulled out a 5-2 win in 10 innings.

"Absolutely," Gallen said. "I mean, that's the guy that if you're a pitcher. He's a guy you've probably tried to emulate in some form or fashion. He's one of the best to do it of all time so yeah, absolutely there was definitely a little extra heightened sense of awareness or sense of urgency, because I knew he was gonna be tough for our hitters. So I just tried to do my part to keep us in the game. It was fun to go out there and compete against him. I hadn't gotten a chance to yet. So, it lived up to the expectation."

Verlander is the favorite to pick up his third Cy Young this season in the AL and while Sandy Alcantara is the frontrunner in the NL, Gallen has put together an impressive resume this season, including a 44 1/3 inning scoreless inning streak, the longest in the big leagues since 2015.

Gallen's exploits even got the attention of Verlander.

“Going against Gallen there, obviously it’s going to be a tough night," Verlander said.

The D-backs were able to get to Verlander in the first inning when they scored a pair of runs (one unearned) on three hits and a passed ball.

Turns out they were working with some good intel from Strom.

"Strommy did a really good job helping us out with some game planning and some thoughts about how to potentially get to [Verlander] a little bit earlier than later," Lovullo said. "And I think our guys came out and did a really good job."

Gallen meanwhile cruised through the first four innings allowing just a pair of infield hits.

In fact, the Astros didn't hit a ball into the outfield until Alex Bregman flew out to center to start the fifth.

One out later, Trey Mancini doubled down the left field line and Chas McCormick followed with an opposite-field homer to right to tie the game at 2.

That was all Gallen would allow through seven as he worked out of a bases-loaded situation in that frame to end his night.

"I’ve got to tip my cap to Zac to come out in the next inning and shut us down," Verlander said. "It was a well-fought game."

Gallen ended up striking out six while walking just one. He has struck out 19 and walked one in his last two starts spanning 15 innings.

"I have so much confidence in that guy," first baseman Christian Walker said. "He has such a good plan and he executes it so well that I feel like there's a certain amount of damage control that is just present when he's on the mound -- you know stuff is not really going to get out of hand. It's just a matter of, 'Are we going to score enough?'"

The D-backs didn't score enough to get Gallen a win, but they did come through in the 10th after Reyes Moronta escaped a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the ninth.

After Daulton Varsho helped push across the go-ahead run in the 10th on a fielder's choice, Walker delivered a two-run single that gave the D-backs an extra cushion.

"It's just kind of a testimony to the character we have in the clubhouse," Gallen said. "We're kind of never really out of it until the game's over."