Diamondbacks 5, Brewers 1
PHOENIX, Sep. 4 — Right-hander Zac Gallen pitched seven scoreless innings, running his streak to 41 1/3 consecutive innings, as the Arizona Diamondbacks downed the Milwaukee Brewers, 5–1, Sunday afternoon. By taking three of four, the Diamondbacks won a series against the Brewers for the first time since June of 2017.
Gallen had a scare in the second. After a leadoff walk by designated hitter Keston Hiura, third baseman Luis Urias hit a grounder to the shortstop position. The Diamondbacks were in a left-side overshift, so second baseman Josh Rojas fielded the ball. He flipped to shortstop Geraldo Perdomo, who was sprinting toward the bag at second. Perdomo stepped and fired. Sure-handed first baseman Christian Walker could not pick the low throw out of the dirt, so Urias was safe. With no shift, it would have been an easy double play, but instead, it was a fielder’s choice. After a routine fly to left by catcher Omar Narvaez, center fielder Tyrone Taylor ripped a deep drive to the gap in right-center. In most cases, it would have been a sure double, but a fine catch on a dead sprint by right fielder Daulton Varsho retired the side and preserved Gallen’s streak.
Diamondbacks Take Lead over Brewers
The Diamondbacks took a 1–0 lead in the bottom of the inning. A one-out walk by left fielder Corbin Carroll got the ball rolling. Catcher Carson Kelly followed with a grounder up the middle. Brewers shortstop Willy Adames dove to his left and deflected the ball into center, giving Kelly a single as Carroll advanced all the way to third. A sacrifice fly to left by center fielder Alek Thomas brought Carroll home.
Varsho led off the bottom of the third with a homer to right. The lead swelled to 3–0 in the bottom of the fifth. Rojas walked with two outs and the bases empty, advancing to second on a follow-up single to left by Walker. This chased starter Jason Alexander from the game. After the Brewers replaced him with lefty Hoby Milner, McCarthy dumped a broken-bat single to right, scoring Rojas as Walker reached third. Carroll could not extend the lead, ending the inning on a called strikeout.
Gallen Silences Brewers Bats
Gallen, meanwhile, only allowed one baserunner after the second-inning scare. That came on a one-out single in the fourth by right fielder Hunter Renfroe. Gallen ultimately ended the day having allowed two hits and one walk. He also struck out seven, with the last coming on the final batter he faced. That batter was Urias, who fell on his keister as he whiffed a changeup.
Gallen admitted afterward, “The first three innings, it was hard for me to get in a groove. I didn’t really feel like I had a great feel for anything. Kinda was pitching behind in the count. I felt like I was just spraying fastballs in the first three innings and tried to make adjustments in the fourth. Tried to attack and get back in the zone.” That adjustment was to make sure he didn’t fall off the mound toward the first-base side, since it was pulling his head and, consequently, his pitch locations.
Lefty Kyle Nelson pitched a scoreless top of the eighth. The Diamondbacks picked up insurance runs in the bottom half off left-handed reliever Brent Suter. Walker drew a leadoff walk before McCarthy parked his seventh homer of the season, a 389-foot shot to the right-field bleachers.
This sent the game to the ninth with the Diamondbacks holding a commanding 5–0 lead. Mark Melancon pitched a one-run ninth in a non-save scenario, nailing down the victory despite a two-out homer by Renfroe.
Manager Torey Lovullo quietly slipped into the press interview room while Gallen was still taking postgame questions on stage. When Gallen was nearly done, one reporter asked Lovullo if he had any questions for Gallen. Lovullo smiled and replied, “Just wake me up in the eighth every time he throws.”
Once Lovullo took the stage, he got to brag about his pitcher. “(Zac) goes out there and executes at a very high level and throws up seven more zeros. He spoils us. But it’s because he’s working his butt off, because he’s executing. It’s because of the four or five days between starts, where he is studying, working to make good things happen. It’s not by accident that he’s on this tremendous run.
He went on to talk about the rest of his team. “But I was proud of the way the team scored some early runs and gave him a little bit of a cushion. You can start ‘Zac Watching’ and say, ‘Well, he’s gonna keep us in the game.’ But the offense did a really good job of executing in some key situations. It was a very heady baserunning move from Corbin Carroll that got us to first and third. And then we had a really good approach from Alek Thomas to help us score the run. Daulton Varsho hit his 20th home run — really nice approach for him. And then Jake McCarthy hits the big two-run home run that breaks the game open in the eighth. A lot of little things went on around Zac. But this is really about Zac executing the way he did.” Lovullo added it was “very, very” important that the team have a bounceback after the heartbreaking loss the night before.
Gallen felt his changeup was working best in Sunday’s game. He called it “ironic,” because in the bullpen, he “didn’t really feel good about it at all.” He continued, “But watching the previous starts from Merrill (Kelly) and (Zach) Davies, the right-on-right changeups, I saw, could be effective…. (Today) was the best the changeup has felt in a while.”
Gallen had no problem coming out of the game after seven innings and 103 pitches. “I felt 103 was good,” he said, “especially going to Colorado,” site of his next start. “It’s a tough place on your body,” he added, given its famous mile-high elevation. “But I felt like I was pitching on pretty decent adrenaline there towards the end, so 103 seemed like a good place to call it.” He added that there was no discussion at all about him going back out for the eighth.
With his streak now at 41 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings, Gallen is one inning shy of breaking the franchise record of 42, held by Brandon Webb since 2007. “You guys like to publicize it,” he said with a smile, “so, obviously, I know about it.” When asked later whether he cares about setting the record, he said with a sheepish grin, “I’m right there, so I might as well try and see what the deal is.” He added, “I’m only an inning away, so I might as well try. It’d be pretty anticlimactic if….”
His thought trailed off before he resumed. “At this point, it’s like I said with the other streak I had to start my career. If I get there, I earned it. There are some good lineups we’ve faced. My job is to throw up zeros, so it falls into the line of doing my job.”
Kelly attributes Gallen’s current run to being “able to repeat.” He added, “(Zac) takes his preparation very seriously. He dives into a lot of analytics, and he’s able to repeat out there. So I think he’s able to make adjustments on the fly. When a pitcher is doing that, it makes games a lot of fun.”
Kelly has caught several great pitchers in his career, including future Hall of Famer Zack Greinke and Adam Wainwright, who also has a realistic chance of enshrinement. He said that Gallen’s mental preparation is “up there” with these greats. “It’s exciting to be part of. I encourage him to keep going and keep growing.”
McCarthy said about having Gallen pitch every fifth day, “It’s really nice when he continues to give us a shot. Back-to-back pitchers of the month with him and Merrill…. It’s really impressive what they do. We, as hitters, understand it’s hard to do that. So we appreciate it and try to pay it forward by getting them some runs.”
He continued his torrid offensive production, going 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBI. This has run his season slash line to .288/.348/.464 (64-for-222) with 14 doubles, two triples, seven homers, 35 RBI, and 40 runs scored over 74 games. This gives him a .354 wOBA and 7.8 wRAA, second on the team to Christian Walker in both categories. About his broken-bat RBI single, McCarthy said, “I saw one pitch. It was a pretty heavy sinker inside. I went back and looked. It was significantly off the plate, but I was able to get enough bat on it. I think the broken bat confused Tellez, since there was a lot going on, so I’m just happy it got to the outfield and got us a run.
On the home run, McCarthy was “trying to see it deep.” He added, “I know, that sounds funny on an inside fastball, but with Walk (Walker) on, I was trying to make something happen. Anything’s better than a strikeout in that situation. And I got my bat to it, tried to stay tight to my body. Luckily I got enough loft to get it out of there.”
Gallen (11–2) — who has not taken a loss since June 10 — earned the win, while Alexander (2–2) took the loss. The Diamondbacks (64–69) and Brewers (70–63) still trail the Philadelphia Phillies in the race for the third NL Wild Card spot by 8.5 and 2.5 games, respectively.
Both teams will be on the road Monday. The Brewers head to Denver for a three-game series with the Colorado Rockies. First pitch Monday is at 3:10 pm Central Time. Brewers right-hander Adrian Houser (4–9, 5.02 ERA) will face fellow righty Ryan Feltner (2–6, 5.78 ERA). The Diamondbacks, meanwhile, head to San Diego for a three-game series with the Padres (74–61), who have gone 9–3 against the Diamondbacks in 2022. Right-hander Ryne Nelson will make his major league debut for the Diamondbacks, facing Padres left-hander Blake Snell (6–7, 3.87 ERA). First pitch will be at 3:40 pm Arizona Time.
Zac Gallen, Keston Hiura, Luis Urias, Josh Rojas, Geraldo Perdomo, Christian Walker, Omar Narvaez, Tyrone Taylor, Daulton Varsho, Corbin Carroll, Carson Kelly, Willy Adames, Alek Thomas, Jason Alexander, Hoby Milner, Hunter Renfroe, Kyle Nelson, Brent Suter, Mark Melancon, Torey Lovullo, Jake McCarthy, Brandon Webb, Zack Greinke, Adam Wainwright, Adrian Houser, Ryan Feltner, Ryne Nelson, Blake Snell