Joey Gallo heating up, giving Yankees needed boost for postseason push

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Joey Gallo first home run Cleveland cropped 9/17/21
Joey Gallo first home run Cleveland cropped 9/17/21

Joey Gallo sparked and capped the Yankees' offensive outburst in Friday's series-opening win over Cleveland at Yankee Stadium, an 8-0 rout, going 3-for-4 with two solo home runs.

Batting fifth and starting in left for the Yankees, Gallo broke a scoreless second inning with a second-deck rope down the right-field line. He added a right-center blast, his 37th of the 2021 season and 12th as a Yankee, in the eighth.

Between the couple of long balls, Gallo reached on a seventh-inning leadoff single. Continuing a recent hot streak, Gallo's second multi-hit game of this past week -- he went 2-for-4 with a homer in Monday's 6-5 win over the Minnesota Twins -- caught Aaron Judge's attention.

"I think just getting pitches to hit," Judge, who went 2-for-4 while adding a home run of his own in the fourth inning, said when he was asked about what looks different with Gallo. "When you've got a guy like Joey Gallo, a lot of the times, he's got such a great eye and he works the count really well. Sometimes, he doesn't get a lot of pitches to hit and as a hitter that's frustrating. Sometimes you try to be a little too much when you're walking a lot or not getting pitches to drive. So I just think tonight he kept it simple. And when he got a pitch out over the plate, he was able to crush it."

Through 140 games as a member of the Yankees and Texas Rangers, Gallo is slashing .204/.357/.476 with 37 home runs and 75 RBI but accompanied by 196 strikeouts. The Yankees tenure has been a mixed one, but a recent surge at the plate -- evidenced by a 6-for-16 (.375) line with three homers and four strikeouts in his past five games -- shows promise as he enters the home stretch.

"Just working with our guys here, out hitting coaches here, is just kind of looking at video and over the years of when I was taking my best swing," Gallo said. "I was a little bit more opened up with my stance, kind of getting into that back leg a little bit more as well and getting into my legs. And watching video from a few weeks ago, it was more kind of flailing a little bit. I didn't have much strength. I wasn't in my legs as much. So being a big guy, that's (how) you can create a lot of power and torque from being in your legs.

"So that's kind of what we did. And obviously just confidence-wise -- I knew, at some point, I would get going and things would start going my way. It's just how the game of baseball works. But credit to our hitting coaches. They definitely helped me a lot."

A roller-coaster ride in the AL Wild Card race is winding down, and the Yankees need a boost out of their midseason additions. They could be seeing Gallo start to do his part as he heats up.

"This game's so much about being on time," Boone said. "But when you get your pitch or you get a mistake pitch where a pitcher hunting, you've got to take advantage of 'em. The pitchers are too good. They can exploit you too much. So when you do get an opportunity, and that's what he's been doing here lately, getting on a high pitch -- and I thought the first one was a great job. That ball's easy to spin out of and keep hitting hard foul. But he stayed tight through it and was able to keep it fair, and just some more good at-bats from him tonight."