The Arizona Diamondbacks needed an ace-like performance from starter Zac Gallen on Thursday against the Chicago Cubs. The D-backs lost six straight games entering the matchup, five of which were by two or fewer runs.
Gallen took the ball and gave Arizona what it needed, allowing one run in five frames before the bullpen took over and followed his lead for a 3-1 victory.
Despite the stellar outing, his ERA actually rose to 1.14, still tops among MLB pitchers with more than two starts.
Gallen told Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke Friday that being a reliable pitcher to stop skids is something he values.
“Something I talked to (manager Torey Lovullo) about last year and something he challenged me to do is to be that stopper trying to put a stop to if we’re on a skid,” Gallen said. “So, it was definitely something that really challenged me, to be that stopper. To be able to give us a chance to win when I take the ball every five days is something I pride myself on.”
The 25-year-old righty has seven starts this season and allowed more than a run in only one of them.
Gallen pushed back on the term ace, saying each picture who takes the hill for their team is counted on to be the ace that day.
He mentioned scouts who called him a potential No. 4 or 5 starter in a rotation when he was working his way up to the majors and said it is silly to put a number on a pitcher.
Zac Gallen, Filthy Front Door Cutter and Knuckle Curve. pic.twitter.com/Xh5dPFL2D4
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 20, 2022
Still, he has high expectations for himself to be what many around the league would define as an ace pitcher.
“I guess it’s a good problem to have, but also kind of something that is in the back of my mind,” Gallen said of his ERA going up on Thursday. “I go out there and try and give up no runs to make (the ERA) go down, but definitely a good problem to have this far into the season.”
Gallen attributes some of his success this season to health.
He entered spring training after having shoulder tightness during the offseason lockout and missed his first start but has had a healthy first stretch of the season since.
Gallen dealt with multiple injuries last year and his numbers dipped after missing time early.
He owned a 3.04 ERA through five outings before suffering a hamstring strain. He returned more than a month later and his ERA over his next 10 starts was 6.17 before he bounced back with a strong final eight appearances.
Zac Gallen, Filth.
7Ks in 7 scoreless.
[Lowers his ERA to 0.95] pic.twitter.com/0KAPcD6XDi
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 8, 2022
“Confidence in my preparation, feeling confidence in my arm, just being able to put put work in every day and be able to work on my craft, something I kind of lacked last year with the injuries and whatnot,” Gallen explained.
D-backs pitching coach Brent Strom has called Gallen one of the best pitchers he’s worked with in over 20 years in MLB with his preparation and arsenal being separators.
Arizona entered Friday’s action with the fifth-best starting rotation ERA in MLB at 3.28.
The D-backs are back in action against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on Saturday.
First pitch is at 11:20 a.m. Tune in on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.