The Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS–Joey Gallo has made plenty of progress at the plate this season for the Texas Rangers.
Those home runs just keep going and going, too.
Gallo’s latest massive homer was a three-run shot in the fourth inning last night that spurred the Rangers to a 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins, making A.J. Griffin a winner in his first start in more than two months.
Gallo has 29 home runs this season, including four in the last three games.
“He’s getting better every day that he goes out there,” Rangers’ manager Jeff Banister said, lauding Gallo’s evolution beyond a pure pull hitter.
After swinging and missing twice at sliders from Twins’ starter Adalberto Mejia, Gallo let one go in the dirt.
Then he drove the next pitch, another slider, into the front of the second deck above right-centre field with two outs to break the tie.
Twins’ centre-fielder Byron Buxton just turned around and stared straight up as the ball soared over his head.
The estimates by Major League Baseball’s Statcast tracking system were a distance of 430 feet and an exit velocity of 108 m.p.h. off the bat.
“I got pretty lucky,” Gallo said. “If that pitch was maybe a couple more inches off the plate, I’m probably not doing this interview.
Though still prone to extended slumps and voluminous strikeouts, the 23-year-old Gallo has settled in capably after two seasons of going back-and-forth to the minor leagues.
This was his first major-league game at Target Field, where he wowed at the All-Star Futures game with a long home run and a batting practice bop that broke a window on a truck parked on the plaza beyond right field for a promotion.
Byron Buxton’s RBI double was one of only three hits all night by the Twins, who returned from a 2-6 road trip to California.
They had the lead with six outs to go in four of those losses, with three coming in the opponent’s final at-bat.
Griffin (5-2) gave up one run and two hits over six innings–a resounding return from a muscle strain in his chest.
He last started on May 26 and last won back on May 9.
“I had those first-day-of-school jitters a little bit last night and stuff,” Griffin admitted.
“Excited, and a little nervous.”
Mejia (4-5) let the first three Rangers’ batters reach base, with Nomar Mazara driving in a run with a single.
But the rookie lefty rebounded to not only strike out the side but fan the first two hitters of the second inning, too.
Mejia then was one strike away from escaping the fateful fourth, as well, until Gallo made him pay for a slider that caught too much of the plate.
“It’s the repetitiveness of the pitch, and the guy having a chance to see the spin and knowing where it has to start to be hittable,” said Twins’ manager Paul Molitor.
Dillon Gee relieved Mejia to start the fifth, becoming the franchise-record 30th pitcher used by Minnesota this season.
Gee, who was let go by the Rangers on June 16, has been on the Twins’ roster for seven days.
He finally got in.
“Hey, man, I’m the long guy,” Gee reasoned. “If you’re not using me, it’s probably a pretty good thing.”
Elsewhere in the AL, Boston beat Chicago 9-5, Cleveland downed New York 5-1, Detroit topped Baltimore 7-5, Tampa Bay upended Houston 5-3, and Kansas City shaded Seattle 6-4
Over in the NL, Milwaukee edged St. Louis 2-1, Arizona topped Chicago 10-8, Colorado nipped New York 5-4, Pittsburgh blanked Cincinnati 6-0, and L.A. beat Atlanta 7-4.
The L.A. Angels shaded Philadelphia 5-4 and San Francisco bombed Oakland 11-2 in interleague play.