Gallo's game more than just stats

Rangers' third base prospect homers twice in Hickory win

Joey Gallo recorded 136 total bases over 59 games in 2012. (Matt Burton/

By Ashley Marshall / Special to | April 17, 2013 9:40 PM ET

Entering Wednesday's Class A outing, Rangers first-round pick Joey Gallo owned a couple statistics that flirted with the Mendoza line.

But while the numbers said one thing -- specifically a .204 average with five times as many strikeouts as walks -- Gallo was generally happy with his first two weeks in the South Atlantic League.

He knew it was only a matter of time for things to even themselves out. On Wednesday, they did.

Texas' No. 9 prospect went 2-for-3 with a pair of solo homers, two walks and four runs scored in the Hickory Crawdads' 6-5 win over the Asheville Tourists. His second roundtripper was a go-ahead homer in the top of the 10th inning that proved to be the decisive score.

"I'm happy with how things are going," Gallo said. "I always want to do better, even if I'm hitting .400. I'm always working on different parts of my game, not just hitting .400 or trying to hit 1,000 home runs, but to get better on defense and be a better teammate."

Now, though, the 6-foot-5 third baseman is tied for second in the Minors with six homers, one short of the lead held by Gwinnett's Ernesto Mejia. West Virginia's Stetson Allie and Albuquerque's Scott Van Slyke also have six longballs.

The Nevada native wasted little time putting his team on the board, fighting his way out of an 0-2 hole before taking Jonathan Vargas' seventh pitch of his first at-bat to right-center field.

"He got ahead of me, I went down 0-2, then I worked my way back to a 2-2 count," Gallo said. "He threw a high fastball and I just got ahold of it. There's a pretty big wall out there, but I figured it had a shot."

Gallo then walked and scored in the fourth frame, flew out to left field in the sixth and walked and scored again in the eighth.

Jordan Akins' solo homer to lead off the top of the ninth sent the game to extra innings, and Gallo gave the Crawdads the lead for good on a fly ball to right field  -- also on the seventh pitch of his at-bat against Patrick Johnson.

"I worked it to 3-2 again and he ended up throwing a curveball that he hung. I was able to hook it down the right-field line and around the foul pole," Gallo explained.

It's those types of at-bats -- extended battles that increase pitch count and induce fatigue -- that Gallo is pleased with. Even if he does end up making an out, he's given his teammates a chance to see all of his opponent's pitches.

"It's very important because that's a big part of our game," he said. "The home run I hit in the first inning, we'd never seen seen him before. So the long at-bat gives the rest of the team the ability to see what he throws and how he's featuring his off-speed pitches and how he works counts.

"Both of my home runs came on 3-2 pitches, so I was seeing the ball well and working myself into good hitting counts. We won, so I can't ask for anything more."

Last year, Gallo hit an Arizona League-record 18 homers. He batted .293 with 43 RBIs in 43 games, and while his .733 slugging percentage was easily the best mark (nobody came with 100 points), he also led all Rookie-league hitters with a 1.169 OPS.

But while he earned 37 walks -- almost one per game -- in 2012, he entered Wednesday's start with four free passes and 20 punchouts in 13 South Atlantic League outings.

"It's obviously not fun to strike out, but that is part of being a No. 3 hitter and a power hitter," said Gallo, selected by the Rangers 39th overall in last June's Draft. "You won't get the same pitches to hit and you'll get pitched around more. It doesn't concern me.

"I was swinging at pitches I shouldn't have been swinging at, but an out is an out whether it's a popup, a strikeout or a groundout. I'll have more strikeouts than most people, but I'm not concerned. All I'm looking to do is have a good at-bat and hit it hard. Hopefully it finds a hole, but after you put the ball in play, you have no control over what happens to it."

On Wednesday, Hickory right fielder Jordan Akins contributed a solo homer and a double, and second baseman Ryan Rua doubled twice and plated one run from the cleanup spot.

Crawdads starter Sam Stafford did not factor in the decision after allowing a run on three hits and five walks over 2 2/3 innings. Alexander Claudio (1-1) fanned five batters over four one-hit innings for the victory.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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