Zac Gallen still looking for old magic in Diamondbacks' loss to Dodgers

Nick Piecoro
Arizona Republic

For the past month, Diamondbacks right-hander Zac Gallen has felt close to his old self. He has not had to fight his mechanics as often. He has been able to find the strike zone with most, if not all, of his pitches. And, more often than not, he has managed to throw well. But he has remained a tick off from the pitcher of previous years.

He had another outing on Monday night at Dodger Stadium that fits alongside so many others before it this season. He made one costly mistake at the wrong time — got himself into one jam from which he could not escape — and it wound up spoiling an otherwise solid night.

In a 5-1 loss to the Dodgers, that mistake came in the first inning. Gallen flipped a 1-0 curveball to Justin Turner. The pitch stayed up. It caught a lot of the plate. Turner smacked into the left-field corner for a two-run double.

After giving up four runs in 5 1/3 innings, Gallen’s ERA rose to 4.44. He has been credited with a win in just two of his 20 starts. He has had to battle not just injuries but also the kind of inconsistency that seemed unimaginable after the dominance he displayed the previous two years.

“It’s not how I drew it up at the beginning of the year,” Gallen said.

The Diamondbacks fell to 4-16 in his starts. It is a startling stat for a pitcher many had on their shortlist of potential National League Cy Young candidates entering the season.

“I would have said that wouldn’t have been the case,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “I know he expects to win every game he pitches. I’m sure he would be extremely upset by that statistic if you showed it to him.”

Gallen did seem upset at multiple points during Monday night’s outing, but he adopted more of a sanguine take on things by the time he sat down for a call with reporters later in the night. He did not profess to have all of the answers. Instead, he seemed eager to find them.

“I just try to look at it like a trampoline, a situation where I have to figure out some things I might have been getting away with earlier or have now created some bad habits,” Gallen said. “I’m so meticulous I kind of like the challenge of it.”

Where he needs to go from a pitching perspective, he did not seem entirely sure, though he did mention his year-long struggle with his change-up. He called that part of things more of a project for later, when he will be able to look back on his season from a distance. The thing he knows he needs to do next year is take the ball every fifth day.

“The biggest thing is trying to stay healthy,” said Gallen, who has had three trips to the injured list this year. “Granted, the injuries were kind of just all freak, just unfortunate. Just the importance, really, of staying on the field and being able to get in that rhythm.”

After a three-run first capped by the Turner double, Gallen ripped off four scoreless innings in which he largely looked like his old self. But in the sixth, he issued a one-out walk before hanging another breaking ball, this time to Austin Barnes, who laced it into left for a run-scoring double. The hit ended Gallen’s night.

“Tonight they just put some good swings on it,” Gallen said. “I felt pretty good out there. I felt like I had pretty decent stuff. They had some good at-bats.”

The Diamondbacks did not appear to have many of those. They scored a first-inning run off Clayton Kershaw but managed just four hits the rest of the night.

“I thought there were too many early-count outs,” Lovullo said. “I saw a low pitch count for a couple three innings in a row and I feel like we could do a better job.”