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Never Make Zac Gallen Face Kyle Schwarber And Bryce Harper In The Same Inning Ever Again

Arizona's Zac Gallen and Philadelphia's Bryce Harper watch Harper's sixth-inning home run soar into the night during Philadelphia's 6-1 win in Game 5 of the NLCS.
Norm Hall/Getty Images

Way back in the first game of the NLCS, in the bottom of the first inning, with the very first pitch he threw in the series, Arizona's Zac Gallen pumped a fastball more-or-less directly down the middle of the strike zone, and Philadelphia's Kyle Schwarber socked it more-or-less to the Kuiper Belt. This established the major theme of the series, which is the Philadelphia Phillies hitting lots of homers.

On the far side of a Trea Turner out, Gallen tried another first-pitch fastball to another Philadelphia lefty, and Bryce Harper hit it backward through time, where it struck Gallen's great-grandfather on the back of the head, killing him instantly. More or less. I like to think Gallen learned a lesson from this, though it may have been the wrong one.

In the sixth inning of Saturday night's Game 5, Gallen again faced Schwarber with no outs and nobody on. In fairness, this was the third time they'd met on the evening: Schwarber singled in the first, and scored, but then flied out harmlessly in the third inning. This time, Gallen threw a fastball up and away for ball one, then dropped a knuckle-curve below the bottom of the zone for ball two. Honestly, that is probably the right idea at this point. Simply do not throw this man strikes.

Maybe Gallen was trying for the same with his 2-0 pitch, another knuckle curve. Maybe he was trying to put that sucker in the dirt, like a humble and smart man who'd suffered enough; maybe this righteous and pure intention was corrupted, at the last second, by a little voice whispering in his ear that maybe, just maybe, he could nick the bottom of the strike zone, and get a harmless groundout. That voice belonged to Satan, who wanted another baseball. The devil is a liar!

The curve hung. Instead of snapping down into the earth, it looped its sorry harmless way directly into the center of the strike zone, and Schwarber sent it shrieking into hell.

Great googly moogly! It's a sort of funny and sad irony that for a normal person, throwing a reasonably bendy curveball to that exact spot would feel absolutely great. I would run around screaming "I'm king of the world!" if I placed a knuckle-curve in the center of the strike zone, whether on purpose or not. For a professional pitcher, throwing a curveball to that exact spot is the gravest of failures. That pitch could scarcely have been more doomed if it had Rudy Giuliani's lawyers.

As in the first inning of the series opener, Gallen held it together and got through Turner next, inducing a grounder to third. And, as in that earlier meeting, with nobody on and one out he tried to get a high fastball past Harper—No, you fool! No!—this time on a full count. And Harper walloped that piece of crap so frickin' hard, man.

That the Phillies won, 6-1, to take a 3-2 lead in the series, scarcely feels worth mentioning, in the shadow of the human horror story that made it happen. This poor Zac Gallen has now given up some 1,800 feet worth of LCS dingers to Schwarber and Harper within the past week. The good news is, under no circumstances will he have to face either of them again before the spring, except perhaps in some extremely terrible nightmares.

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