NEW YORK – Joey Gallo turned his head to the sky and watched the arc of the ball as it left his bat and sailed into the horizon of the dark, starless night. It went up and up and up, and when it finally came down it landed in the front row of the right grandstand at Yankee Stadium – just behind the outstretched glove of Mitch Haniger of the Mariners.
With two outs and two runners at the end of the seventh inning on Thursday, the Yankee Stadium crowd broke into a chant for the Slugger, her cherished Trade Deadline takeover that still had the crucial moment to begin his career in pinstripes. They were ready to deliver it. Gallo happily committed.
Behind Gallo’s green three-run homer – his first with the team – the Yankees (59-49) took a 5-3 win in a start of the high-stakes series against the Mariners, who were in the four-game weekend set entered just one game behind New York in the American League wild card race, and they hit a season high of 10 games above the .500 mark.
“I was just hoping it would be fair and I was hoping it would come out,” Gallo said. “And when I saw it come out, I was a little overwhelmed by emotion. It was such a big at-bat in a big moment. You could feel that it could be a groundbreaking at-bat. I was happy that I could get through and help the team win. “
It wasn’t the typical Homer crowd Gallo expected at Yankee Stadium. In fact, the 331-foot blast projected by Statcast at a 48-degree launch angle was the Yankees’ highest homer run of the season, and it was the club’s highest homer since Statcast started the chase in 2015. Not enough, it was also the highest in Gallo’s seven-year career in the league.
The Yankees watched her closely from the dugout canoe, keeping their eyes open as eagerly as their fans. Manager Aaron Boone even had to climb the top steps of the field to follow the ball’s trajectory.
“I definitely thought it had a chance,” said Boone. “I knew it was across the board, which is a good thing. Obviously it was that high – you don’t see very many going that high. I actually got out of the dugout because I felt like it would work. And it just went on. [He] hit it in the perfect place. “
Gallo circled the bases to the enthusiastic cheers of the Yankees fans present, and then – at their behest – returned to a curtain over the dugout. It was a surreal moment for the 27-year-old, who grew up a Yankees fan himself, considers Derek Jeter his idol and wears pinstripe number 13 like Alex Rodriguez before him.
“My 10 year old I would be crying now and not believe what’s going on,” Gallo said. “It’s really crazy. It’s something I have to like to take a step back and say, ‘I’m in Yankee Stadium and I’m getting a curtain of Yankees fans.’ It’s crazy for me It’s just an honor to play for this organization and help them win. “
The game-winning home run was part of a groundbreaking, season-best 3-for-4 night on the record for Gallo, who also scored two doubles and two goals. He had played 2:23 (both doubles) in six games to start his Yankees career before Thursday. With each of his first five Yankees hits looking for additional bases, Gallo was only the fourth Yankees player in the last 20 seasons to accomplish this feat, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Despite these early fighting, Boone insisted that it was only “a matter of time” before Gallo took hold.
“The trading deadline is a whirlwind. It’s not just the baseball part of it, it’s about meeting new people, it’s moving, it’s so many things that go with it, “said Boone. “So you want to settle down, make yourself comfortable. There is no question about having some results and getting a big hit in a win, [it] allows you to exhale a little. He should feel pretty good when you meet a game winner here, especially with what we’re going through as a team. “
With starting mugs Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery on the COVID-19 casualty list – and catcher Gary Sánchez who joined them Thursday – the Yankees needed an all-hands-on-deck approach. Still, Gallo said he got the attention and support he needed and he expressed his gratitude by helping the Yanks make it 6-1 since the deadline.
“The clubhouse and my teammates and coaches have been excellent,” said Gallo. “I really couldn’t ask for a better team to play for. I feel like I’ve been here for years [with] how they trust me and believe in me. It was nice and I think that gives me the confidence. I know I didn’t have a great first week, but they’ll get me out of there and let me keep playing so I have to appreciate that. “
There was also one particular aspect of his new home that Gallo cherished Thursday night – that short porch in the right panel.
“I had a couple of friends from Texas who texted me and said, ‘Hey, this is an F9 in Texas, this is an out,’” Gallo said, “and I said, ‘Yeah, but we’re not in Texas anymore . ‘ ”
The Yankees couldn’t be happier about that.