I don’t know about you, but there are indeed nights when, for no particular reason, I find it incredibly difficult to fall into a sound sleep, even if I’m really tired. My brain won’t shut down, or the neighborhood noises outside the window bug me, or I just can’t get comfortable. Sometimes I get back up and putter around for awhile; sometimes I just grit my teeth and lay there until I finally drift off. I generally get a good night’s sleep out of it eventually, but sometimes it takes awhile to get there.
Of course, I’m just talking about sleeping, and setting up a metaphor for what Zac Gallen does for a living, which is try to throw a little leather-wrapped ball more or less very fast and get it past often very large men with very large sticks in their hands who very much want to put a hurting on that little leather-wrapped ball. What he does is much more difficult and demanding of a wide range of skills and talent, but one of the tricks to it, especially for Zac, seems to be trying to find a rhythm to settle into and then to settle into it. Like me and my sleeping some nights, he had a great deal of difficulty settling in this evening.
It wound up being a very successful outing for Gallen—he threw six innings of shutout ball overall, and he only needed 90 pitches to do it, and his pitch count never got above twenty in any single inning of work. But it was a weird one, in that the only inning he sat the Rockies down in order was the sixth, his last inning of work. In the other five innings, he dealt with at least one hit and one baserunner, so he was dealing with traffic just about the entire time. And none of those hits were squibbers—Colorado was making good, hard contact against him. He kept putting up zeroes, and some great fielding behind him (looking at you, Jake McCarthy....welcome back!) helped keep it that way but it felt to me like we were playing with fire the whole way.
Left fielder Jurickson Profar led off the game for Colorado by drawing an eight-pitch walk, extending his on-base streak to somewhere in the mid-thirties. This itself put me on notice that Gallen maybe didn’t have the best stuff and command tonight. When he’s really on, Zac doesn’t walk people. One out later, Rockies’ third baseman Ryan McMahon smoked a ball to Ketel Marte that kinda clanked off his glove, and two runners were on. That play was originally scored an error on Marte, which I thought was fair, but the official scorer changed it to an infield hit. Colorado catcher Elias Diaz, kicking off what wound up being a very bad night for him, ended the burgeoning threat by grounding into a 5-4-3 double play. First zero up.
In the bottom half of the first, we basically won the ballgame, though we didn’t know it at the time. Not to be outdone by Profar’s leadoff walk in the top half, and wanting to extend his own on-base streak and get it out of the way early, Ketel Marte took the second pitch he saw from Rockies’ starter Kyle Freeland and launched it to left, clanging it off the foul pole for a leadoff homer:
Ketel is on another planet right now. pic.twitter.com/W3zoZIbafS— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) May 31, 2023
Emmanuel Rivera, starting at third today against the left-hander, ground out to short, and Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. flied out to center, and it began to seem if the one was all we would get. But no! Christan Walker drew a two-out walk, and then Evan Longoria, our DH tonight against the lefty, went up 3-1 in the count before hitting this moonshot up onto the concourse in left center field:
No doubt on this from Longoria! pic.twitter.com/UPbeQHZHQB— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) May 31, 2023
Corbin Carroll ended the inning with a groundout to second, but huzzah, crooked number! 3-0 D-BACKS
And there it stayed for a little while. Gallen pitched around a Kris Bryant leadoff single to left center in the second. In the third, he surrendered a leadoff double to Rockies’ rookie shortstop and apparent future star Ezequiel Tovar that Tovar banged off the bullpen fence in left, and then two outs later walked McMahon on four pitches (this one might well have been a pitch-around, though given how shaky Zac was looking, it was hard to tell), but got out of it with another zero thanks to an amazing sliding catch by Jake McCarthy:
Jake McCarthy slides in with the snag. pic.twitter.com/Nujk8FBDnI— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) May 31, 2023
Gallen, happily, did not allow the leadoff hitter to reach in the top of the fourth, but Harold Castro, Colorado’s second baseman, hit a double down the line to put a runner in scoring position with one out. Again, no damage was done, and honestly Zac was starting to look like he was finally settling in—two of the three outs he recorded in the fourth were by strikeout, giving him three through the first four innings. Again, not what we’ve come to expect from Gallen. But whatever. Another zero was on the board.
Meanwhile, we were nipping at Freeland as well. Jake McCarthy hit his first of two infield singles with two outs in the second, squibbing one to second and then beating the throw. He promptly stole second, because Jake McCarthy. Emmanuel Rivera squibbed an infield single to lead off the third, advanced to second one out later on Walker’s second walk of the night, but was erased thanks to Longoria grounding into an inning-ending double play.
Corbin Carroll led off the bottom of the fourth with a five-pitch walk, stole second, and then stole third, on the next pitch, which was hilarious but which also made me feel kinda bad for Elias Diaz, who entered the day just behind Gabriel Moreno in gunning down basestealers. As noted above, Diaz had a rough night. Nick Ahmed flew out to shallow center, and then Moreno lifted a ball to right that allowed Carroll to tag and score. 4-0 D-BACKS
Gallen had more traffic again in the top of the fifth, this time a two-out single to Randal Grichuk, but again another zero went up on the board and for the second inning in a row Gallen notched two more strikeouts. I had broadly stopped worrying about the base hits by this point, though, because Zac was seeming like he’d finally settled in. He finally pitched his lone 1-2-3 inning of the contest in the sixth, ending that frame with two more strikeouts and 90 pitches thrown. Given how well he was throwing the ball now, I honestly wouldn’t have minded seeing him come out to start the seventh, but no, that was not to be. Probably just as well, really.
Kyle Freeland was still on the mound for Colorado, meanwhile, and Corbin Carroll was apparently unsatisfied with his one walk and two stolen bases. He wanted more bases. He wanted all the bases. Coming to the plate one last time with one out in the bottom of the sixth, he got ‘em:
And that’s pretty much your ballgame. Scott McGough pitched two scoreless innings in relief, and Kevin Ginkel spoiled the observation that I was going to make about how we’d won the ballgame two pitches in by giving up a solo dinger to Rockies’ first baseman Nolan Jones, but that was all the damage the Rockies were able to muster and we didn’t do anything more to pile on either. 5-1 D-BACKS
Win Probability Added, courtesy of FanGraphs
Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, 1st Edition: Zac Gallen (6 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K, +25.1% WPA)
Pathfinder: Evan Longoria (4 AB, 1 H, 1 HR, 2 RBI, +11.3% WPA)
We had a well-attended Gameday Thread tonight, especially for a Tuesday, with 154 comments at time of writing. Three comments went Sedona Red, but CotG goes to Jack by popular acclaim, for this homage to the contributions and virtues of Emmanuel Rivera:
I couldn’t agree more. He’s a lunch-pail guy, with no delusions of future superstardom. Dude comes to work every day, does his job, does it well, helps the team win. Right on.
If you dare, please stop by tomorrow as we look to secure the series win, with lefty Tommy Henry taking the mound for the good guys against Colorado right-hander and bullpen arm Dinelson Lamet and his pleasingly chunky 12.66 ERA. First pitch happens at 6:40pm AZ time, just like today. Hope you can join us!
As always, thanks for reading. As always, go Diamondbacks!