Top-tier starters match up as D-backs visit Blue Jays

Arizona’s Zac Gallen may be the favorite in the National League Cy Young Award race, while Toronto’s Kevin Gausman is one of the top contenders for the American League honor.

The two All-Star right-handers will square off on Saturday when the Diamondbacks face the Blue Jays in the middle contest of a three-game set. Toronto won the opener 7-2 on Friday

Gallen (11-3, 3.04 ERA) is tied for the major league lead in victories after placing fifth in last season’s NL Cy Young balloting. The Arizona ace started Tuesday’s All-Star Game for the NL and pitched a scoreless inning.

Gausman (7-5, 3.03 ERA) leads the AL with 153 strikeouts after finishing a distant ninth in last year’s voting. He pulled out of Tuesday’s All-Star Game because he started Saturday and was unavailable to pitch.

The Diamondbacks could use one of Gallen’s top-notch efforts on Saturday. They have lost six of their past eight games

In nine of his 19 starts, Gallen has allowed no more than one run while pitching at least six innings. He beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in his final start before the All-Star break, giving up one run and four hits over seven innings on July 7.

Gallen, 27, also has fanned 11 or more batters four times. He has struck out 125 in 118 1/3 innings.

Gallen has never faced the Blue Jays. He has given up homers to Brandon Belt (3-for-20) and George Springer (1-for-6) when those players were with other teams

However, Gallen has struggled on the road with a 2-3 mark and 5.08 ERA in nine starts. At home, he is 9-0 with a 1.48 ERA in 10 outings.

Toronto has won six of its past seven games and should be feeling good about Gausman facing the Diamondbacks

Gausman, 32, is 6-1 with a 2.22 ERA in nine career appearances (eight starts) against Arizona. He has registered 60 strikeouts in 48 2/3 innings and has easily handled Ketel Marte (2-for-22) and Christian Walker (1-for-10).

Evan Longoria is 9-for-35 (.257) with one homer against Gausman.

Over his past three starts, Gausman is 0-2 despite having a 2.65 ERA and striking out 26 in 17 innings. He went 5-0 with a 3.03 ERA over his previous six starts, allowing one run or none in four of those outings.

Gausman has struck out 10 or more on seven occasions this season, and twice he fanned 13 in seven innings.

Gausman would like to be the beneficiary of the same type of offensive prowess the Blue Jays displayed in the opener

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit his 14th homer of the season — in his first at-bat since winning the Home Run Derby — and Matt Chapman had three hits as Toronto totaled 16 overall.

“I was looking for a good pitch to hit,” Guerrero said through an interpreter of his 426-foot blast off Ryne Nelson. “He left it right in the middle, and I put good contact on it.”

The Blue Jays pushed across five runs and sent 10 hitters to the plate in the seventh inning to snap a 2-2 tie

Toronto closer Jordan Romano (lower back tightness) wasn’t needed on Friday but is expected to be available on Saturday if the club is in a save situation.

Arizona All-Star outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. received a long ovation when he came up to bat for the first time on Friday. Gurriel, who has 15 homers, twice hit 20 or more for the Blue Jays from 2018-22 before being traded along with catcher Gabriel Moreno to the Diamondbacks for outfielder Daulton Varsho in December

“It’s part of the game,” Gurriel said through an interpreter. “Trades are there. You just have to understand it and move on.”

Moreno homered for Arizona in the opener.

–Field Level Media

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