Just when the San Diego Padres offense shows signs of getting untracked, Zac Gallen crosses their path.
That’s the bottom line Saturday night in Phoenix when the Padres, in the middle of a race for the third wild-card berth in the National League, face the hottest pitcher in the major leagues: the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Gallen.
The good news for the Padres: Gallen’s Diamondbacks-record run of 44 1/3 straight scoreless innings has been stopped.
The bad news: Gallen is 8-0 with a 0.97 earned run average over his past 10 starts.
The 27-year-old right-hander is 12-2 this season with a 2.50 ERA, a National League-leading 0.908 WHIP and a .185 opponents’ batting average. Saturday night, Gallen will be matched against Padres’ right-hander Joe Musgrove (9-7, 3.28).
And while other starting pitchers are wearing down at this time of the season, Gallen seems to be getting stronger.
Yes, he gave up three runs in his most recent start. But that was at Coors Field in Colorado where, as Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said, “seven runs are like three elsewhere.”
Lovullo might be president of his pitcher’s fan club.
“The run he has been on in unbelievable. The hitters that he’s faced. And the lineups he has gotten through,” Lovullo said. “It speaks volumes about how good he is. It’s pretty amazing. And in between this run of excellent starts, nothing has changed. He hasn’t wavered in the way goes about his preparation. It’s a lot of hard work. The scoreless innings run was an amazing accomplishment. He’s been dominant. He pounds the zone with a really aggressive fastball.”
The Diamondbacks are 18-9 when Gallen pitches. But they are only 1-1 in Gallen’s two starts against the Padres, which came in back-to-back games on June 21 and 28. In those two starts, Gallen gave up eight runs (seven earned) on 11 hits and five walks with 13 strikeouts in 11 innings.
Gallen’s career record against the Padres is 1-2 with a 4.06 ERA in seven starts.
However, the Padres are coming off a 17-hit, 12-3 victory against the Diamondbacks Friday night to even the four-game series at one win apiece.
“That’s what we were hoping to see,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said of what he hopes was a breakthrough for the stagnant Padres’ offense. “We need to make that kind of a game a start.”
Of course, the Padres (79-66) have more to play for than the Diamondbacks (68-76). The Padres are holding onto a 1 1/2-game lead on Milwaukee for the third and final wild card berth in the National League with 17 games to go. The Padres hold the tiebreaker on the Brewers (head-to-head record).
As important as a win is getting Musgrove back on track. He has one win since June 16, when he owned a 8-0 record with a 1.59 ERA.
After getting his ninth win on Aug. 31 with a quality start, Musgrove has given up four earned runs in each of his two starts since — including against the Diamondbacks on Sept. 6. Arizona scored five runs (four earned) on nine hits and two walks with three strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings in a game the Padres eventually won.
In his career, Musgrove is 2-2 with an ERA of 4.34 and 41 strikeouts in nine appearances (eight starts) against Arizona.
–Field Level Media