Joey Gallo’s homers reminding Yankees why they traded for him

The Orioles continually asked an infielder to sprint backward when Joey Gallo stepped into the batter’s box, employing a four-man outfield to take away anything Gallo hit deep.

Alas, they failed to ask someone to sit in the right-field seats.

That’s where Gallo blasted a fastball from righty Felix Bautista for his second home run of the season and second in as many nights in the Yankees’ 5-2 win over the Orioles at the Stadium on Wednesday, providing both a cushion and hope that his big-time struggles are behind him.

The Yankees’ left fielder had not left the yard in his first 16 games of the season, when the sound of boos often followed him both into and out of the box. He opened the year 7-for-48 (.146) with 22 strikeouts, the all-or-nothing player nearly always finishing with nothing. Even his blistered batted balls would find gloves.

“Just happy some of those are falling,” Aaron Judge said of his fellow outfielder. “He’s been driving the ball all over the park and not really getting rewarded for it. For him to finally get a couple to go over the fence and not drilled right at the right fielder or drilled at the center fielder, that’s a plus right there.”

Joey Gallo homered in the Yankees win over the Orioles on Wednesday.
Robert Sabo

The “nothing” still is in Gallo’s game — he struck out three times during his 1-for-4 Wednesday — but in the tiny sample size of two games, the slugger has reminded why he was acquired from the Rangers in the first place.

The Yankees were clinging to a one-run lead in the seventh when Gallo redirected 98 mph heat an estimated 404 feet, a solo shot that was the first Yankees run since the first inning.

They could exhale, and as the dingers have come, perhaps they can begin to exhale in terms of Gallo’s production.

“Hopefully those are things that can settle him in a little bit and get him rolling,” said manager Aaron Boone, who also praised Gallo’s “competitive” at-bats in recent days that have hinted he is seeing the ball better. “Good to see him, especially in a 3-2 game there, to give us a little insurance run. … Hopefully he can continue to build off of good at-bats and slowly build that confidence as the season unfolds.”

The big, often empty swings are still there, as evidenced by the three swing-and-misses that added to a hefty strikeout total. As the Yankees finished play, his 26 Ks were the fourth-most in baseball, and he was batting just .161.

But the Yankees will take the pops into the catchers’ mitts if the pops off his bat continue.

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