Right from the get-go, both Marcus Stroman and Zac Gallen looked to have it going on. Gallen of course has been excellent this season, allowing only 4 earned runs en route to the lowest ERA in the MLB. Stroman was coming off his best start of the year, a 7 inning, 2-hits allowed against the Brewers to start May. But Stroman hit the COVID IL, and it was a toss-up as to how he’d pitch coming back. As we’ve seen from Melancon, it’s not a guarantee to come back pitching at 100% capacity. But as mentioned, both pitchers had everything going.
The only hit of note was a 2-out single in the 3rd by Andrelton Simmons, but Gallen recovered and induced a ground ball to Marte, who did not field it cleanly, instead glancing the grounder to Perdomo at 2nd base who calmly picked it up for the 3rd out. It’s just one of those lucky plays teams get.
The D-backs finally got on the board, with Daulton Varsho smashing a first-pitch fastball to deep center for the first run of the game.
The team wasn’t finished, as Marte singled with 1-out and advanced to 2nd on a passed ball. Walker moved the runner to 3rd, and Rojas lined a single to right, scoring Marte. Suzuki attempted to throw home on the play, allowing Rojas to move into scoring position and the aggressiveness immediately paid off as Peralta singled to center, scoring Rojas for a quick 3-0 lead.
Gallen faltered a tad with the long inning on the bench, allowing a leadoff walk before getting 2 quick outs but Yan Gomes doubled to left, scoring Contreras. He settled down to get a Schwindel ground out to keep the game at 3-1.
An uneventful 5th for Stroman followed, and Gallen had a chance to keep the pressure on the Cubs, but patience and excellent at-bats caused some concern for Gallen’s life on the mound. The first out was easy enough, Wisdom flew out to center. But Christopher Morel battled Gallen, fouling off 5 two-strike pitches and 11 total pitches before inducing a walk. Simmons followed suit, fouling off two more two-strike pitches and 8 pitches for another walk. Gallen looked to right the ship, getting an Ortega strikeout and a 1-2 count on Contreras, but hit him to load the bases for Ian Happ. Another lengthy at-bat followed, he also fouled off 5 two-strike pitches and had a 10-pitch at-bat, but wasn’t able to muster more than a groundball.
That was it for Gallen, after 4 innings he only needed 48 pitches, but a 40-pitch 5th was more than enough for the team to see, and he was taken out of the game. He struck out 4, walked 3, allowing just 1 earned run on 2 hits. It’s too bad really, Gallen was really dealing through 4, but could not find a way to get outs when it mattered most. Still, a good performance from the league leader*.
With both pitchers out of the game after the 5th, it turned into a bullpen game, with both needing at least 3 innings to close out the game. The Cubs bullpen did their job, 4 innings of scoreless ball to give their team a shot but the D-backs bullpen matched that, going 4 innings of scoreless baseball. It wasn’t without its thorns though, as the Cubs had runners in scoring position in the 7th and 8th innings, but both times saw the team battle out of it to secure their first victory in their last 7 games. Nice job!
Lots of deserving pitchers today, with Gallen leading a quintet of positive performances with a +.187 WPA. Josh Rojas’ RBI and run in the 5th gave him a +.107 to lead the hitters in WPA.
SafeTwire389 loves Daulton Varsho. I do too.
An early game tomorrow, with first pitch at 11:20am for the second game of the 3-game set. Stop on by!