Record: 49-59. Pace: 74-88. Change on 2021: +15.
Zac Gallen had one of his best starts of the season, tossing seven shutout innings as the D-backs squeaked past the Pirates. For a long time, it looked as if a run-scoring double-play would be all Arizona might obtain, before a two-run Ketel Marte single with the bases loaded in the eighth, provided some much needed breathing room. Chairman of the Closer Committee, Ian Kennedy, notched his seventh save, and the D-backs reached the two-thirds point of the campaign fifteen games better than they were at the same stage in 2021.
Through 51⁄2 innings, there had been precious little to write about, beyond the excellence of Gallen. Not only was the game scoreless, there had been precious little in the way of offensive opportunities for either side. Indeed, the Pirates and D-backs had combined for just a pair of at-bats with a runner in scoring position. Now, while I love watching me a good pitching duel, they are a great deal harder to recap. You are left talking about an absence of activity: runs, chances to score, extra-base hits. It's like reviewing an action movie where the characters sit around, talking about doing things. Still, I'll try and come up with something better than hissing static.
We do have to start by praising Zac Gallen, who was massively improved over his start against the Guardians, in just about every way. Most notable was perhaps the efficiency. Against Cleveland, he needed 103 pitches to get through 5.2 innings. Tonight, he reached the same point in 71 pitches. Early efficiency was the key. Through four innings, he had needed only 44, the lowest figure in his career. Helpful were innings like the second, where after a lead-off single, he got three outs on three pitches, courtesy of a popped-up bunt and double-play. The defense also made plays behind him; not least, Gallen himself, who had a trio of nice outs.
It was also notable that Zac was using his curveball much more, and to excellent effect. According to Michael in the Gameday Thread, the stats on the Gallen curveball through six innings were as follows: "24 total, 5 called strikes, 5 whiffs, 42% CS+W rate, 50% whiff rate." The effectiveness of the pitch made the other weapons in his arsenal all the more powerful. He went seven shutout innings on 89 pitches, allowing three hits and two walks with eight strikeouts. It was the second-most efficient Zac had been through seven, trailing only the one-hit "complete game" i e. seven inning outing against the Atlanta Braves in April 2021, which needed 83 pitches.
The only time he hit trouble was the seventh, where a one-out walk was followed by a single just in front of a sliding Alek Thomas and skittered away. However, Daulton Varsho backed up the play, and alertly gunned down the runner who was trying to reach third with one out. The trail man did reach second, giving the Pirates their first RISP. A groundout to third ended the threat, and also Gallen's night. I think the only comparable outing for Zac this year, was probably the one against the Nationals on July 22nd. There, he also tossed seven shutout innings, on two hits and no walks, with seven strikeouts. Gallen remains unbeaten at Chase Field in 12 starts and 71 IP so far. [Brian Anderson went 7-0 over 88 home IP in 1999]
Offensively, there was very little going through 51⁄2 innings either. Arizona’s best chance came in the fourth when Thomas singled to lead the frame off, but was caught stealing one out later. Christian Walker then crashed a double off the wall in dead center, which might (or might not) have scored Thomas. As Jack mentioned, that dropped the team’s success rate to 73%: “You definitely need to be OVER 75%, preferably closer to 80%. Also, Rojas perfect 13 for 13, everyone else 36 SB, 18 CS, 67%.” I genuinely had not realized Rojas was even leading the team in SB: he only had a total of fourteen over 197 games coming into this campaign.
Arizona finally got on the board in the sixth, courtesy of some Pirates’ defensive indifference. Geraldo Perdomo reached on an error at third, after a hard smash ended up being lost track of by their third basemen. He got himself picked off, but the first baseman dropped the ball on the transfer. Somehow, Perdomo was credited with a stolen base for that. Rojas then dropped down a perfect bunt single, leaping over the despairing tag attempt (pictured, top), with Perdomo reaching third. Thomas’s ground-ball killed the inning, but Perdomo did get across home-plate (above), to give the Diamondbacks a 1-0 lead. That’s where things remained through Gallen’s departure.
Joe Mantiply took over, and though the Pirates brought up a pair of right-handed pinch hitters, Joe disposed of them without trouble, and struck out a pair in an 11-pitch eighth. In the Arizona half, they loaded the bases with no outs, on a Seth Beer single, Carson Kelly walk and another beautiful bunt, this time by Perdomo. It looked like the Diamondbacks would waste the chance: Rojas and Thomas both ground out to the drawn-in infield, letting the runner be cut down at home. However, Marte, who’d have a fairly miserable evening at the plate, came up big with a two-run single (below). IPK came in, working around a one-out walk, and the D-backs had their fifth shutout win of the year.
Click for details at Fangraphs.com
Safe as houses: Zac Gallen, +45.7%
Built of brick: Mantiply, +12.3%; Perdomo, +10.8%
Crashing down: Alex Thomas, -11.7%
There were a couple of Sedona Red comments, but I could not possibly let Jack get away with this one.
No. They’re not. Though I was actually pulling for them not to score, and pull off the 1-0 win, because those are a lot rarer. Arizona hasn’t had one of those since the final game of the 2019 season, when they beat San Diego on Tim Locastro’s walk-off single. Oh, well: maybe tomorrow. It’s the second game against the Pirates, with Tommy Henry making his Chase Field debut. And, hey, I got my thousand words out anyway. This recapping thing’s a piece of cake, really...