It should come as no surprise that Arizona Diamondbacks ace Zac Gallen will take the mound when the team faces the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 1 of the NLCS on Monday night. Gallen started in the All-Star game and made a strong Cy Young case this season, but he has never played in a game of this magnitude.
To add to the monumental circumstances, Gallen will be traveling home. He grew up in the Camden area, just 11 miles from Citizens Bank Park. He will have family in the crowd, so maybe the pressure is alleviated. Or, maybe, it's ratcheted up even higher.
All we know is that Gallen will not receive a warm welcome home on Monday night. The Phillies' crowd is notoriously ruthless and the past couple weeks have been a particularly cocky stretch for the hometown crazies. A dominant two-game home stand against the division-rival Braves in the NLDS was the perfect warmup for baseball's most vociferous crowd.
Gallen will hear it from Phillies fans from the moment he steps on the field. And, to make matters worse, he's facing a red-hot lineup that has been spraying dingers all over the place all postseason — in a very hitter-friendly ballpark.
He's good enough to weather the storm, but these batters could spoil Gallen's much-anticipated homecoming.
4. Brandon Marsh
Brandon Marsh doesn't get much credit for the Phillies' explosive offense, but he knocked one out of the park in Game 3 of the Braves series and he has a fair amount of career success against Gallen — 2-for-4 with a couple singles.
It's a small sample size, but Marsh is swinging the bat with a lot of positive momentum these days. He was 2-for-4 in the Phillies' closeout win against the Braves and he's coming off his best regular season to date (.277/.372/.458 with 12 HR and 60 RBI in 477 AB).
Gallen will have his mind preoccupied with the top of the Phillies' lineup, where more traditionally explosive bats lurk. By the time Marsh comes to the plate in the eight-spot, however, he could be primed to jump on a mistake from Gallen if the pitcher takes his foot off the gas pedal.