By the fourth inning, Zac Gallen was plenty aware he had a zero in the hit column. In fact, the Marlins' No. 18 prospect and Jarlin García stayed practically perfect through eight frames for Triple-A New Orleans on Friday, as the pair faced the minimum in the Baby Cakes' season-opening 2-1 victory over
By the fourth inning, Zac Gallen was plenty aware he had a zero in the hit column.
In fact, the Marlins' No. 18 prospect and Jarlin García stayed practically perfect through eight frames for Triple-A New Orleans on Friday, as the pair faced the minimum in the Baby Cakes' season-opening 2-1 victory over Round Rock at the Shrine on Airline.
Gallen did not allow a hit or walk while striking out a career-high 11 over seven frames before Garcia fanned the side in the eighth.
"I kind of had an idea," Gallen said. "Around the third or fourth inning, I kind of was in tune to the game, trying not to think about it too much, but I had an idea. The walks, I didn't really think about, but definitely the hits part. You're looking at the scoreboard -- you see the zero up there."
With three outs to go, Tommy Eveld came on to finish the potential no-hitter but allowed a leadoff homer to Jack Mayfield, ending the bid and shutout attempt on one pitch. However, the right-hander struck out the last three batters to earn the save.
Gallen hit the showers after his exit, but he had both ears tuned into the radio broadcast.
"I have faith in those guys," the University of North Carolina product said. "We had a two-run lead, which was awesome. I'm glad we could pull off the win."
Gameday box score
The trio struck out 17, a new Baby Cakes record for a nine-inning game.
"I think it just kind of speaks volumes to the staff we have here," Gallen said. "I know only three of us pitched tonight but, 1-13, we have guys who have good stuff and can go out there and do something like that. I think it was awesome that we could accomplish that."
A third-inning error by first baseman Matt Snyder allowed Round Rock's Garrett Stubbs to reach, but catcher Bryan Holaday caught him stealing for the second out of the inning. Gallen retired the next 13 batters.
Entering Friday, the Gibbsboro, New Jersey, native's career high for punchouts was nine, which he'd achieved four times. Against the Express, Gallen utilized an elevated fastball to put away hitters, fanning No. 2 Astros prospectKyle Tucker twice and third-ranked Yordan Alvarez once.
"[Holaday] did a great job calling the game back there, mixing the pitches," he said. "It kept them off-balance."
The right-hander threw 60 of 87 pitches for strikes but did not factor in the decision after facing 21 batters over seven innings and exiting with the game scoreless.
"I try to think about whatever I think about those first two outs when we're hitting," he said. "And when that second out comes, I kind of just lock back in and try not to worry about it too much when I step on the field."
The 23-year-old first reached the Pacific Coast League in 2017 with Memphis as a member of the Cardinals organization. St. Louis dealt Gallen as part of the package that landed Marcell Ozuna that December.
"It's been so awesome to get brought over and start something on the ground floor. It always means something," the 2016 third-rounder said. "It speaks volumes when they trade an established big leaguer for you or you're a part of one of those trades. So far, it's been pretty good."
His third go-round on the circuit has the potential to be a step forward for Gallen. After four starts with the Redbirds, he went 8-9 with a 3.65 ERA in 25 outings during his first season in the Miami organization, but opponents batted .281 against him.
"I wouldn't say it's an advantage, but there definitely comes some comfortability being in a league, knowing how it goes," the 6-foot- 2 prospect said. "So I guess more so a familiarity with the league."
Gallen's emphasis during the offseason was on increasing his athleticism to establish consistency with his arm slot.
"I think the big thing last year was, I was kind of getting caught too high," he said.
Heading into this year, an optimal throwing motion will have him in an arm slot that is more three-quarter than over-the-top. Repetition was key in making that adjustment, Gallen said, and he instituted various mental cues to gain a sense of how the ball should feel every time he has an ideal release.
After his offseason tweaks, he considered it an honor to start New Orleans' first game of 2019.
"It was pretty cool, actually," he said. "I didn't have any idea if that would happen or not. I was just kind of concentrated on how my days lined up. Our pitching coordinator came up to me probably a few days before camp broke and said, 'Hey, you're going to start Thursday.'"
The initial date was rained out, but it was still a special occasion for Gallen, who turned in arguably the best performance of his professional career.
The near-no-hitter was not without some dramatics.
The left-handed Garcia (1-0) opened the eighth by falling behind AJ Reed, 3-0, but set down the side in order.
Harold Ramirez broke the tie in the bottom of the eighth when he reached on a throwing error by shortstop Alex De Goti to score Isaac Galloway, who led off the inning with a double to left field. Sixth-ranked Marlins prospect Isan Díaz provided insurance by scoring on a two-out wild pitch by Ralph Garza.
Chris Bumbaca is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @BOOMbaca.