Texas Rangers

Gallo bunts to beat Astros' shift. Or did they beat him?

Do the Astros win when Joey Gallo bunts to beat one of their defensive shifts? It definitely takes him away from his strength.
Do the Astros win when Joey Gallo bunts to beat one of their defensive shifts? It definitely takes him away from his strength. The Associated Press

The moment that apparently many of the 31,722 fans at Globe Life Park had been waiting for since Opening Day arrived in the sixth inning Friday night.

Joey Gallo was up, all four Houston Astros infielders were stationed to the right side of the infield, and the Texas Rangers slugger dropped a bunt for a base hit.

It probably wasn't a perfect bunt against an infield playing straight up, but it didn't have to be with no one in the vicinity of third base to defend it.

The alignment wasn't the four-outfielder defensive shift the Astros employed during the season-opening series, which also left the left side of the infield vacated, but it was a shift that Gallo felt he could beat.

"The situation dictates it," Gallo said. "If you're down 10 runs you're not bunting, or up 10 runs. If you're trying to get something or the offense starts getting a little stagnant, we were one swing away from taking a lead. I achieved what I wanted."

But did Gallo play into the Astros' hands during a 7-3 loss?

They know the power he has and that he is in scoring position while in the batter's box. They know that he isn't a prolific bunter, and to attempt to do or to even think to do it is taking him away from what he does best.

Pretty shifty.

"When we first started talking about shifts, shifts were not employed to always take away the hits," manager Jeff Banister said. "You go to the shift, and then all of the sudden he goes, 'Oh, let me do something I don't do normally," and that's what you want them to do."

Texas Rangers slugger Joey Gallo saw the Houston Astros use four outfielders against him Thursday, prompting whether he should bunt more.

The situation certainly called for a bunt. The Rangers were down 5-3 and needed a base runner. Justin Verlander struck out Gallo in his first at-bat but walked him in the fourth.

Wasn't a homer bound to happen next?

Maybe not against Verlander.

"I felt like he's such a good pitcher that maybe I could get a rally going," Gallo said.

Gallo executed, as had Shin-Soo Choo in the third inning against a less-severe shift. Verlander acknowledged that the bunt hits put him in tougher situations and forced him to grind out innings.

"Bunting's part of the game," he said. "They made me work harder. Maybe cost me another inning, got me out of the game. Got to tip your cap."

It's clear that Gallo has worked on his bunting, and it's something nice for him to have to keep defenses honest. The Astros didn't shift as severely in his final at-bat.

His job, though, is usually to hit the ball hard and far.

"He's going to keep working on it," Banister said. "He's pretty confident swinging the bat right now."

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