Joey Gallo didn't hit his first homer of the season last year until the sixth game of the season. It took him seven this year, but he made up for it quickly.
The Rangers' No. 5 prospect homered twice and scored four runs as Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach defeated Wilmington, 6-5, on Thursday.
Gallo finished with a perfect day at the plate, going 4-for-4 while finishing a triple short of the cycle. He put the Pelicans on the board with a solo homer in the second inning. Four innings later, the 20-year-old third baseman hit another solo shot to give the club a 5-1 lead. A newcomer to the Carolina League, the 2012 first-rounder was unsure whether the balls would leave Judy Johnson Field.
"I was just seeing the ball pretty well," Gallo said. "It's a pretty big park here, so I knew to get it out of here, I had get a pretty big piece of it. I was pretty unsure. I hit a ball a few times pretty well that probably would have been out last year where I was playing."
Last year, Gallo slugged the first of his Minor League-leading 40 homers in the season's sixth game for Class A Hickory.
"I'm not too worried about my home run total," MLB.com's No. 91 prospect said. "It's going to be tough to repeat what I did last year. Especially in a league that's known as a pitchers' league. I'm trying to work on other aspects of my game.
"I'm trying to work on a little more plate discipline, working the count a little bit, have better at-bats and defense. Being ready every pitch and playing to the best of my abilities over there."
While the Nevada native entered the night batting .200, Gallo felt good going into the game and thought the early-season struggles could be attributed in part to fate. Tonight was just a different sort of luck for the slugger.
"I wouldn't say I was doing anything different," Gallo said. "I think I had some bad luck. I hit some balls right at guys and guys made some plays. I hit some balls that died in the air that I hit pretty well. I think luck went my way today."
On the mound, Alex Claudio gave up one hit and struck out six over five innings of relief after Cody Buckel allowed a run and walked six in an inning. Jose Leclerc (1-0) earned the win, striking out three over 2 1/3 hitless innings.
"It was huge," Gallo said of the relievers' performance. "[Claudio] came in with the bases loaded and no outs and didn't give up any runs. A guy like makes the game really fun and makes it easy to play defense and win games."
Jack Lopez drove in three runs while Royals' No. 7 prospect Hunter Dozier scored twice for the Blue Rocks.