'Fun to watch': Gallagher flashes arm, collects clutch hit

May 18th, 2023

CHICAGO -- The tension had been carrying was palpable as he roared running down the first base line in the seventh inning on Thursday.

The Guardians’ catching unit has had little success this month. has gotten most of the playing time, but even when Gallagher has been in, he’s failed to help offensively. That was, until he gave his team a much-needed insurance run in the seventh inning of the Guardians’ 3-1 victory over the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Since the start of May, Guardian catchers had not recorded a hit until pinch-hit for Zunino on Wednesday night and picked up a single before inevitably remaining in the game behind the dish. Zunino has gone 0-for-27 with 21 strikeouts in May and Gallagher entered the day with just two hits on the season. So, when the Guardians were able to take the lead on an error by White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson, leaving runners on the corners for Gallagher, it was realistic to believe Terry Francona would turn to his bench to pinch-hit for the struggling catcher. Instead, he put his trust in Gallagher. 

“Tito gave me the go ahead and I was fortunate enough to come up with that extra run,” Gallagher said. “It was big just giving this bullpen just a little bit more breathing room and it was huge for the team and personally for me too. It was nice to get that off my back.”

Gallagher served a single into left field and as he took his first step out of the batter’s box toward first base, he pumped his arms and let out a roar. The frustration and tension that had been building all season could finally be let out, even if only for a moment. Gallagher snapped an 0-for-32 stretch with the RBI single.

“That was probably the longest I've gone without getting a hit,” Gallagher said.

The Guardians' backstop brought more to the table on both sides of the ball than the Guardians have received from their catchers all season long. In addition to his clutch hit, he threw out two runners in key situations, preventing any momentum from shifting back in Chicago’s favor. The last time Cleveland had a catcher throw out two runners in a game was when Roberto Pérez did so in August 2020 at St. Louis.

“He's done a good job all year when he’s played,” Francona said of Gallagher. “He's a calming influence behind the plate. He blocks balls. He throws. And he got a nice big hit for us today.”

The defense was a welcomed sight for Cleveland. Entering the day, the team had allowed 45 stolen bases, which ranked the second most in the AL behind just the White Sox. It’s clearly been no secret to opposing clubs that this has been a weakness for the Guardians, considering the 53 stolen base attempts that have been made against them ranks the third most in the Majors. The Cleveland backstops are actively trying to change that narrative.

“We try to limit as many guys on the bases as possible,” Gallagher said. “We don't want to give up free nineties. The catchers here, me and [Zunino] and Fry haven't been throwing too many guys out. But we're working on it and we're talking with the pitching staff and we're working on coming together with a solution. And I think guys getting better times at home plate will give us a little better chance. And Logan [Allen] did that, a heck of a job of that today.”

The problem with the Guardians this season is that just when the team seems to be gaining steam, it’s been snuffed almost immediately. But Cleveland knows it needs to start making a run sooner than later. helped bring some much-needed power with a solo shot on Thursday. Gallagher brought some life to the catching position. The bullpen backed a strong performance by Allen.

Once again, the foundation is set for momentum to begin to build. Now, it’s up to the Guardians to run with it.

“We're looking for reasons to be optimistic,” Francona said. “[Thursday] was fun to watch.”