Published September 26, 2017
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Tigers and Rangers conclude a three-game series Wednesday with 33-year-old pitchers -- Detroit right-hander Anibal Sanchez and Texas lefty Cole Hamels -- facing off in the rubber match.
However, it is the rise of a 23-year-old Ranger that is garnering attention since the All-Star break. Joey Gallo appears to be figuring out some things, namely the strike zone, at the major league level.
A .194 hitter before the All-Star break, Gallo has hit .250 since while contributing 13 homers and 23 RBIs. He has nine homers in his past 13 games and 12 walks since the break.
Gallo hit his 34th home run Tuesday off Justin Verlander in the Rangers' 10-4 win, and like many of the others, the ball didn't linger, going out at 108 mph. Fourteen of his home runs have had an exit velocity of 110 mph or higher.
Gallo is third in the American League in home runs behind New York's Aaron Judge (36) and Kansas City's Mike Moustakas (35).
"It's really significant," Texas manager Jeff Banister said. "It's a recognition of what he needs to do in the batter's box and the ability to put the ball in play. You still see pitchers trying to make adjustments to him.
"He is walking and not chasing, hitting the ball in the middle of the field and not the over-the-top pull. For him to continue that process, it's huge for his confidence. He has become a better hitter, not just a slugger."
Gallo, though, could also become the third player in major league history to have more home runs than singles in a season. Mark McGwire did it five times and Barry Bonds once. Gallo has 21 singles.
But that is OK with him.
"You look at just the way the field's shaped for me," Gallo said. "I hit a line drive to the right side, I'm out. If I hit a ground ball to the right side, I'm out. As long as I'm putting together good at-bats or drawing walks, then for me, that's what's important, getting on-base and doing damage when I can and playing good defense."
Gallo will take his licks Wednesday against Sanchez (3-3, 6.69 ERA). Sanchez is 1-3 with an 8.84 ERA in his past four starts, and he is trying to stop a two-game losing streak. He certainly would appear vulnerable against a guy like Gallo, having allowed 11 home runs in his past six starts since yielding one in his first four.
Sanchez is 2-4 with a 7.84 ERA in seven career appearances (six starts) against Texas. In Arlington, he is 1-3 with a 13.79 ERA in four starts. He worked 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief against Texas in May.
Detroit starters are in a rut, having given up homers in 10 of their last 11 games. The rotation has a 7.94 ERA during that stretch, and that includes a Verlander outing in which he didn't give up a run over eight innings.
"The pitching has been bad overall … giving up home runs, walking too many guys," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "Pitching and defense wins games, but bad pitching is instrumental in losing games. We just haven't pitched well."
"We just have to play better. It's as simple as that. We've got to pitch better, hit better, manage better, coach better."
Meanwhile, Hamels (7-1, 3.31) is vying to win a third consecutive start. He is on a good run, going 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his past four starts, and he hasn't allowed an earned run in his past 18 innings.
In his career against the Tigers, Hamels is 3-2 with a 3.27 ERA in five starts. He hasn't faced them this year.
The Rangers have won five of six, including two straight over Detroit. The Tigers have lost nine of their past 11.