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

PHOENIX (AP) — Zac Gallen hasn’t been the ace Arizona’s hoped for this postseason.

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

Arizona is facing elimination after a planned bullpen game went awry in Game 4, resulting in an 11-7 loss to the Texas 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.

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“He can’t just walk out there and get the job done because of his name,” D-backs manager Torey 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.”

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

Arizona did catch 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.

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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 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.

“We’ve got to remember that Zac spoils us,” Lovullo said. “He goes out there and goes five, six, seven innings every single time. And inside of that, he might give up two or three runs, but we’re so used to him giving up zero or one runs.”

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, he said Tuesday 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.

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“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 feels prepared and eases me mentally.”