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Gallen loses battle of aces, Diamondbacks on the brink of elimination in NLCS

NLCS Phillies Diamondbacks Baseball
Posted at 9:57 PM, Oct 21, 2023

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona sent out Zac Gallen for the first game in Philadelphia, hoping to get the NL Championship Series off to a good start.

The right-hander fell into an early hole and the Diamondbacks never recovered.

Arizona again turned to Gallen for Game 5 in the desert, anticipating a strong start that would give them a series lead heading back to Philadelphia.

Gallen labored early for the second time in the NLCS, putting the Diamondbacks on the brink of elimination.

Gallen came up short in a battle of aces with Philadelphia's Zack Wheeler and the Diamondbacks lost 6-1 to the Phillies on Saturday in Game 5 of the NLCS.

“The guys grind and do what they can. I just didn’t give them a chance tonight,” Gallen said. “They are just a good lineup. They capitalized on the mistakes I made.”

Wheeler shut down Arizona for the second game of the series, allowing five hits in seven scoreless innings. Gallen was again no match for his fellow ace, giving up a pair of homers — 905 feet in total — and four runs in six innings.

Unable to win with their ace, the Diamondbacks head back to Philadelphia for Game 6 on Monday trailing 3-2 in the series.

“You’re gonna get a lot of good pitchers, guys this time of year that are really, really good,” said Phillies first baseman Bryce Harper, who homered and scored three runs. “And that’s the advantage not missing pitches in the zone — being able to hit for damage or contact to put pressure on them as much as possible.”

Gallen put himself in the mix for the NL Cy Young Award with a stellar regular season, finishing 17-9 with a 3.47 ERA while earning the starting nod for the NL in the All-Star Game.

The right-hander was sharp in starts against Milwaukee and the Los Angeles Dodgers to open the playoffs, allowing four combined runs in 11 1/3 innings.

The Phillies had Gallen's number in the series starting with his first pitch, hit 420 feet by Kyle Schwarber for a homer. Gallen allowed five runs on eight hits in five innings in that 5-3 loss.

The Phillies jumped on Arizona's ace again in Game 5.

Gallen gave up two runs and three hits in the first inning, putting the Diamondbacks in an immediate hole. He seemed to settle into a rhythm, retiring 12 straight, but gave up consecutive long solo homers to Schwarber and Harper that put the Phillies up 4-0.

Gallen allowed six hits, walked two and struck out one, putting the Diamondbacks in a deep hole as the series shifts back to Philadelphia.

“You look at some of some of the great pitchers in this game, they elevate their game to a different level this time of year,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “I feel like Zach is very close to being able to do that, he just made a couple mistakes.”

Gallen's mistakes cost the Diamondbacks a chance to take a lead to Philadelphia. Now they'll need Merrill Kelly to pitch well in Game 6 to have any shot at extending the series.