When professional leagues’ postseasons roll around, I like to do a little roundup of all the teams with Tar Heels on them, or even Heel-adjacent tidbits, to give the non-sickos among you all something to root for if you find yourselves hankering for some sports action without UNC sports to watch. We didn’t do it for the MLB, partially because I’m only a little bit sure how the MLB postseason works, given how many times in the last decade things have changed — more and then fewer teams in the playoffs, a tiebreaker game and then the removal of it, the number of games in wild-card series changing from 1 to 3... for a casual baseball fan like me, it’s a lot to keep track of.
But now, all four wild card series have ended in sweeps, leaving 8 teams left vying for the World Series title, and after four Diamond Heels alumni entered the postseason, just one remains: Arizona Diamondbacks ace Zac Gallen. Gallen built on his career year last year during this season, being named to the 2023 All-Star game and spending much of the year as the favorite in the National League for the Cy Young award before two really bad late-season starts pushed him out of pole position; he’s still very much in the mix, though. Gallen made the start in the D-Backs’ second wild-card game against the Milwaukee Brewers and, after loading the bases with one out and allowing two runs via a sac fly and a single, induced a groundout from Josh Donaldson and started cooking from there. In the next five innings, he gave up just one hit and kept the Brewers scoreless as his offense starting putting up runs, and he gave his bullpen 3 innings to defend a 5-2 lead. That score remained at the end of the game, giving Gallen a win and quality start on a day when he didn’t look his best at all times, striking out just 4 through 6 innings after a regular season where he averaged more than one K per inning. Two of those strikeouts happened on his last two batters faced, though, and you can just tell he was pumped to end on a high note:
Zac Gallen's 2Ks in the 6th...and is fired up.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 5, 2023
Heck of a job by Gallen battling through this start without his best stuff. pic.twitter.com/U3zsJAibyJ
Gallen’s squad now heads to the National League Divisional Series for a best-of-five series against the LA Dodgers, and he’ll definitely be counted on to get them through the NL’s 2-seed, who are currently fairly heavily favored. Already, he’s only the fourth Tar Heel pitcher to earn a win in the postseason, per Pat James:
Final line for Zac Gallen in the @Dbacks' win:— Pat James (@patjames24) October 5, 2023
He becomes the fourth @DiamondHeels pitcher to earn a postseason win, joining Matt Harvey (2015 NLDS + NLCS), Andrew Miller (2016 ALDS + WS) and Paul Shuey (1999 ALDS). pic.twitter.com/u6T2Hcknd7
Hopefully, it’s just the first of many, and we at Tar Heel Blog wish Zac the best of luck this postseason.