Joey Gallo showed the world just how hard he can hit a baseball during the 90th MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard.
He also reinforced just how far he has come as a player this season in not only making his first All-Star Game but having a significant impact in the American League’s 4-3 victory over the National League at Progressive Field on Tuesday night.
Gallo, thriving in the big spotlight, smashed a first-pitch home run off Giants reliever Will Smith in the bottom of the seventh inning that gave the AL a 4-1 lead.
“It was crazy,” Gallo said. “Like running around the bases, I really didn’t understand the magnitude of it: I just hit a home run in the All-Star Game. Watching this game growing up, and now I hit a home run in it. It’s pretty special. I think I have to take a step back. Everything happened so quick. I can’t even think about what just happened.”
Gallo jumped on a 94.2-mph fastball from Smith and smashed it into the right-field seats at an exit velocity of 111.5 mph. It was projected to travel 397 feet. He is the third player since 2000 to hit a home run on the first pitch he saw in his first All-Star Game. David Wright did so in '06 and Willson Contreras in '18.
The 111.5 mph exit velocity was the hardest on a hit in the All-Star Game since Statcast began measuring in 2015. The previous was 110.8 mph on a home run by Kris Bryant against Chris Sale in '16. Gary Sanchez’s fifth-inning double off Walker Buehler on Tuesday night came in at 110.2 mph, the third-hardest All-Star hit, according to Statcast.
“I got in the box and was hoping to make contact,” Gallo said. “I got a pretty good pitch to hit, and I hit it. That’s pretty much it. I was just trying to put the ball in play, honestly. Just got a pretty good pitch and got the barrel on it.”
Gallo came into the game as a defensive replacement in the top of the sixth and had to wait until two outs in the bottom of the seventh to get his first All-Star at-bat. His presence also forced Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to make a pitching change. He pulled right-hander Brandon Woodruff and brought in a lefty to face Gallo. Smith has allowed just two home runs in 104 at-bats against left-handed hitters since the beginning of 2018.
“Incredible how hard that had to be, to wait for two innings to get his at-bat after he came into the game and hit a first pitch homer versus a left-handed pitcher,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “Very cool moment for him and our entire organization that was watching.”
Gallo made his first All-Star team after hitting .275/.417/.643 with 20 home runs and 46 RBIs. He gained a reputation over the previous two seasons of being an all-or-nothing slugger, and this year has been about changing his image. An All-Star home run off a tough left-hander can only enhance Gallo's new reputation.
“So proud he is there representing us,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. “And to hit a bomb off a dominant left-handed pitcher? Pretty impressive. MVP in my book.”
Gallo’s home run was the fifth by a Rangers player in the All-Star Game and the first since Mark Teixeira in 2005 in Detroit. Ruben Sierra hit one in 1992 and Hank Blalock hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth in Chicago in 2003 to give the AL a 7-6 victory. Alfonso Soriano hit a home run in the 2004 game in Houston to win MVP honors that year.
“Honestly, everybody here deserved to be here,” Gallo said. “A lot of great players. I worked very hard my whole life to get to this moment and be an All-Star in the big leagues. I definitely felt proud of myself, but at the same time, it was pretty humbling to be out on that line.”
“I mean, I just kept hearing them announce all these superstars’ names, and then they said my name, and I’m like, `Oh, wow, I’m actually here in this line with Mike Trout, George Springer, Mookie Betts.’ It’s pretty special to be on that field.”
“Hunter Pence told me have fun, enjoy it, go hit a home run,” Gallo said. “I was like, `OK, yeah.’ All he wanted me to do was have fun and have it be a positive experience.”
Minor was ineligible to pitch because he had been scheduled to pitch Sunday against Minnesota. He was replaced by Indians right-hander Shane Bieber, who ended up striking out the side in his inning of work and won MVP honors.
Gallo’s home run was the second of two big moments for the Rangers in Cleveland this week. Minor League catcher Sam Huff hit a two-run home run in the seventh inning of the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. That tied the game for the AL and Huff ended up winning the Larry Doby MVP.