Zac Gallen Extends Record With Another Dominant Start
LOS ANGELES—In the long history of baseball, no pitcher has ever done what Zac Gallen has.
Gallen pitched seven shutout innings with one hit allowed and seven strikeouts against the Dodgers on Wednesday night. With the outing, the 25-year-old righthander has allowed three runs or less in each of his first 23 career starts, the longest such streak to start a career in MLB history.
“I’ve seen some young pitchers get on some incredible runs since I’ve been in this game,” said D-backs manager Torey Lovullo, now in his 33rd year of professional baseball. “What he’s done is right up there with some of those that have been pretty impressive.”
The previous record was 21 starts, set by Aaron Sele in 1993-94. Gallen passed Sele last week with seven innings and one run allowed in a start against the Giants.
He one-upped himself Wednesday to extend his record.
Gallen allowed a leadoff single to Mookie Betts to start the game and nothing else the rest of the way. He got all seven of his strikeouts swinging, retired 16 straight batters in a stretch that lasted from the second inning through the seventh, and didn’t allow a runner past first base.
He departed in the top of the eighth with a 1-0 lead against MLB’s second-highest scoring offense.
“I really just had a feel for all five pitches tonight, which was nice,” Gallen said. “Any time you can have an outing like that, things tend to be a little easier.”
What stands out about Gallen is no one saw this coming. If they had, he wouldn’t have been traded as often as he has.
The Cardinals drafted Gallen in the third round in 2016 out of North Carolina and traded him to the Marlins the following year as part of the package for Marcell Ozuna. The Marlins kept Gallen long enough for him to make his debut last year, then traded him after seven starts to the D-backs for shortstop prospect Jazz Chisholm.
Ozuna hit 52 home runs in two seasons with the Cardinals and helped them win the NL Central division title last year. Chisholm entered this season ranked the No. 88 prospect in baseball and made his debut on Tuesday.
But Gallen, simply, has been one of the best starting pitchers in baseball since the day he debuted, a commodity every team desperately seeks.
Through 23 career starts, Gallen has a 2.42 ERA.
“He continues to have all his pitches working,” Lovullo said. “He is pounding the zone with a fastball, an aggressive fastball, on both sides of the plate. It just seems he can go to any pitch at any time and sequencing is spot on.”
The Dodgers were mostly helpless against him. He got 14 swings and misses, including at least one on four different pitches, and allowed only five balls to leave the infield. He threw strikes in, out, up and down, keeping the Dodgers guessing and off-balance all night.
That’s been Gallen’s formula for success. His fastball sits 91-94 mph and none of his secondary pitches drew plus grades from scouts either at North Carolina or as he made his way up the minors, but his ability to mix and command his arsenal has allowed him to dominate nonetheless.
“The guy's had a pretty incredible start to his career,” said Dodgers righthander Walker Buehler, who pitched five scoreless innings opposite Gallen. “I imagine we’ll square off a few more times. Fun guy to watch, kind of mixes and matches.”
“He just mixed his pitches and keeps it out of the middle of the plate,” Betts said. “You gotta give credit where credit is due.”
Gallen’s ERA now stands at 1.80, fifth-lowest in MLB. He leads the National League in innings pitched (50), ranks 10th in the majors in strikeouts (54) and is holding opponents to a .182 batting average.
By any measure, the D-backs have a young ace to build around as they attempt to reload after a disappointing season.
And now, Gallen will try and extend his record for as long as he can.
“I’m kind of a perfectionist,” he said. “Not very maniacal about it, but I always want to go out there and get everybody out.
“My job is to go out there and have a quality start every time. If that keeps the record going, sounds good to me.”