Facing elimination in World Series, D-backs need All-Star performance from Zac Gallen in Game 5

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PHOENIX (AP) — Zac Gallen pulled on a purple hoodie in the aftermath of Arizona's ugly Game 4 loss in the World Series and saw a gaggle of reporters approaching his locker before grabbing his iPad, respectfully declining interviews and heading for the clubhouse exit.

Arizona's ace has some preparing to do.

The Diamondbacks need the right-hander to revert to his All-Star form in Game 5 of the World Series against the Texas Rangers on Wednesday. If he can't, there's a good chance his team's unexpected October run will be over.

Arizona is facing elimination after a planned bullpen game went awry, resulting in an 11-7 loss to the Rangers on Tuesday night. The D-backs fell into a 10-run hole by the end of the third inning in a deflating performance and trail 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.

Gallen — who started for the National League in this year's All-Star Game — has a 2-2 record and a 5.27 ERA in the postseason.

“That's another guy that I'm betting on all day, every day with our backs against the wall,” D-backs first baseman Christian Walker said. “He's my guy. He's our guy. Nothing but confidence and faith in him.”

The D-backs don't just need Gallen to be good in Game 5 — they also need him to be efficient. Manager Torey Lovullo used six pitchers in Game 4.

Arizona did catch a break Tuesday when right-hander Ryne Nelson did the thankless job of throwing 5 1/3 solid innings after the game was already out of hand. That meant three of the team's usual high-leverage relievers — Ryan Thompson, Kevin Ginkel and Paul Sewald — didn't have to pitch.

Nelson was a starter for much of the season but lost his spot in the rotation as the postseason approached. He hadn't pitched that long in a game since Sept. 7.

“In that situation, the team really needed me,” Nelson said.

Gallen has been competitive in his five October starts, throwing at least five innings in all of them. But he's also given up 13 earned runs over the past 16 innings while surrendering five homers.

The hope during this postseason was that Gallen and Merrill Kelly would make a formidable combo. So far, Gallen hasn't been able to deliver his part.

The 28-year-old had a 17-9 record and 3.47 ERA during the regular season and is among the top candidates for the NL Cy Young Award, which will be announced in November. The Rangers will counter in Game 5 with right-hander Nathan Eovaldi.

Lovullo said Gallen's postseason problems mostly stem from a lack of command, particularly with his secondary pitches. He gave up three runs on four hits and four walks over five innings in a Game 1 loss against the Rangers.

“He can’t just walk out there and get the job done because of his name,” Lovullo said before Game 4. “It’s the time of year where everybody’s really, really good and really, really prepped.

“Just gotta be more efficient with his pitches, where they land and sequence them in the right way.”

Gallen has endured the largest workload of his career in 2023, throwing 237 1/3 innings in the regular season and postseason combined. Even so, before Tuesday's game he said that he feels good, throwing a 35-pitch bullpen session on Monday as he keeps working on his craft.

One more chance remains to deliver a postseason gem.

The Diamondbacks need it in the worst way if they're going to send this series back to Texas.

“Until the final bell rings, I’m going to keep plugging away and see what the deal is with my delivery,” Gallen said. “It might not be the greatest thing to be throwing as much as I am, but it’s what makes me feel prepared and eases me mentally.”

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb