Yankees hope Joey Gallo’s first homer of the season can get struggling slugger to start

Joey Gallo’s relief was obvious. The batter went 16 games and 57 plate appearances without doing what he was brought to the Yankees to do. Finally, on Tuesday night, the left fielder hit a home run.

“This is the first time anyone has seen him smile,” said Anthony Rizzo.

Gallo hit one of Orioles starter Jordan Lyles in the fourth inning. Yankee Victory 12-8 at Stadium. He drilled 427 feet to the center of the field and appeared to be very frustrated. Gallo relaxed and the small crowd greeted Gallo with a chant of his name in his last battle of the night.

“It was nice to get a positive response,” Gallo admitted. “It’s been a while since I received positive feedback. … It was nice to hear them singing behind me. Like I said, it’s really good.”

Aaron Boone has been saying all month that he likes it when his players get their “first results” of the season fast. The Yankee manager believes that this relieves some tension and allows the player to calm down and focus on their task.

It took Gallo longer than most, and the Yankees should be hoping it gets him back into the player he was before he came to the Yankees. Homer was his first since last September, and the Bombers think it’s a sign he’s getting ready to finally break out. Freshman hitting coach Dillon Lawson certainly thinks Gallo is in for big things, and soon.

“He’s great at making contact, and if he does make contact, it’s a difficult contact,” Lawson said last week. “It’s definitely in the infielder, or it’s definitely in the outfielder, or he’s hitting a ball that’s not going out for the first time in 131 balls like it’s been in the past.”

Gallo’s 48.3% hit rate is in the top 20 in major tournaments and his 20.8% barrel rate is in the top 3. This formula has always brought Gallo strength results in the past, which explains his early frustration this season.

“I hit a few balls hard that didn’t come out this year,” Gallo said.

One notable difference is that Gallo’s launch angle is the lowest of his career (16.3) and well below his career average (22).

Those past results – and walking speed – are a thing of the past and have made him tend to knock out a lot of solid lineups.

Gallo, who eliminated in his last fight on Tuesday after a positive reception, is also landing more punches than he has since his second season in the big leagues. Gallo is landing 39% of his bats this season, the highest since 2016. That’s more than the major league average of 36%, and combined with the lowest walk rate of his career (11.9), it created a problem for a Yankees roster that has struggled to get started this season.

And that made Gallo a target for angry fans, especially when the Yankees’ offense struggled — as it did in the first 15 games of the season. Or last year, when he came on a trade deadline with the Rangers and couldn’t resist it.

In 75 games with the Yankees, Gallo is hitting .158/.293/.367 with a .659 OPS and 14 home runs. He struck out 111 times in 240 at-bats and walked 44 times.

That’s a big difference from his seven years in Texas (.211/.336/.497 with .833 OPS) and the player the Yankees thought they were trading for.

So they have to hope that Tuesday Night’s Homer was something that could bring Gallo back to being himself from his days with the Rangers.

“I hope this is something that continues to calm him down. He’s had some big at-bats in the last few days where he’s had a big double RBI, some hits and some walks,” Boon said. “So hopefully he’s starting to settle in, because when he does, he can really make an impact.”