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

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By DAVID BRANDT – AP Baseball Writer

PHOENIX (AP) – Zac Gallen pulled on a purple hoodie after Arizona’s ugly Game 4 loss in the World Series and saw a gaggle of reporters approach his locker before grabbing his iPad, politely declining interviews and heading to the clubhouse event.

Ace Arizona has some preparations to make.

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

Arizona is facing elimination after a planned bullpen game goes awry, and as a result 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 deflated performance and trailed 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.

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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 man. He is our man. Nothing but trust and faith in him.”

The D-backs don’t just need Gallen in Game 5 — they also need him to be effective. Manager Torey Lovullo used six pitches in Game 4.

Arizona got a break on 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 the starter for much of the season but lost his place in the rotation as the postseason approached. He hadn’t pitched that long in a game since September 7th.

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

Gallen was competitive in his five starts in October, throwing at least five innings in each. But he has also given up 13 earned runs over the past 16 innings and given up five homers.

The hope during this season was that Gallen and Merrill Kelly would make a great combo. So far, Gallen has been unable to deliver his.

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 face off in Game 5 with righty Nathan Eovaldi.

Lovullo said Gallen’s postseason problems stem mainly from a lack of leadership, especially 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 walk out there and do the job because of his name,” Lovullo said before Game 4. “It’s this time of year when everybody is really, really, really good. well prepared.

“Need to be more efficient with his pitches, where they land and line them up the right way.”

Gallen endured the biggest workload of his career in 2023, throwing 237 1/3 innings in the regular season and postseason combined. However, before Tuesday’s game he said he feels good, throwing a 35-pitch bullpen session on Monday as he continues to work on his craft.

There’s still another chance to deliver a postseason gem.

The Diamondbacks need him in the worst way if they are going to send this series back to Texas.

“Until the final bell rings, I’m always going to pull back and see what my delivery is all about,” Gallen said. “Maybe it’s not the biggest thing to spend as much as I am, but it’s what makes me feel prepared and eases me mentally.”

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