Top Ten Moment #6: Joey Gallo hits home run number 40.
There was no greater redemption story in 2017 than the story Joey Gallo wrote. After his dismal 2016, he was pretty much written off by everyone, his manager and, whether he wanted to admit it, probably himself.
The TV show Lost wouldn’t aptly describe Joey Gallo’s 2016 season. It was more like Missing In Action.
For the entire season, he got one hit. It was a home run. In 30 plate appearances and 25 at-bats. One hit. With 19 strikeouts. That’s “good” for a .040 average. His OPB was .360. (Please do not bother double checking that thinking it’s a typo; it’s not.)
Gallo had lost the faith of his manager. There were no plans to call him up in 2017. In fact, the Rangers were so sure they didn’t want anything to do with Joey Gallo, they signed Mike Napoli in the off-season as Gallo-repellant.
But things changed when Adrian Beltre got hurt before spring training and wasn’t able to start the season. So, against all odds, Joey Gallo began the season on opening day as the third baseman of the Texas Rangers. (Jurickson Profar was the opening day left fielder, by the way.) Gallo went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.
The next day, though, was a sign that things were going to be different. In the bottom of the second, Gallo hit his first home run of the season. Then, in the bottom of the seventh, in just the second game of the season, he doubled his hit total of all of last year with a single to center.
As the season unfolded, Gallo seemed to belong in a major-league uniform. He started drawing walks where before he flailed miserably at pitches. He was still striking out. But not as often, not as automatic, and not as hoplessly.
His batting average never took off. Yet it was a far cry from the .040 the year before. And his OPS pretty much stayed in the upper .800s the entire season. He was hitting more home runs than singles. But he was having fun. He was productive. And his defense at first, where he moved after renting third until Beltre moved back, was stellar.
On September 25, he hit his thirty-ninth home run. Forty was reachable. One year ago, even hitting five would have seemed out of the question. But here he was staring at the big four-o.
He went hitless in his next four games, though. Striking out seven times in eleven at-bats. He was pressing. He really wanted that fortieth.
He was running out of games. Just two left.
Then it came. In the bottom of the second, off Athletics starter Daniel Gosset, with a man on and no outs. Gallo hit number 40 in typical Joey Gallo fashion. A no doubter to deep center.
His foot hit first and that was the last time he touched the ground the rest of the way around the bases. He exhaled. He smiled.
Joey Gallo was a major league hitter.
In case anyone doubted, he hit number 41 his next time up to deep right field.
For a last act, he walked his final two plate appearances of the game, and of the season. That might have been more unlikely than his hitting 40 home runs.