Like many who follow these kinds of things, Joey Gallo thought he had a chance at being selected as the American League Player of the Week for the seven days that ended Sunday.
Like many, he just figured the perennial front-runner for the award (and all others) was going to win it.
“I figured [Mike] Trout would have hit seven homers and had 20 RBIs, but he didn’t,” Gallo said. “So, that was cool.”
Gallo was honored Monday for the first time in his career after a massive week in which he batted a league-best .478 (11 for 23) as the Texas Rangers went 5-1 against Trout’s Los Angels Angels and the Houston Astros.
He swatted four home runs among his seven extra-base hits and led the AL in RBIs (11) and slugging percentage (1.174) and tied for the most runs scored (eight).
Gallo entered Monday batting .281 as the Rangers opened a seven-game West Coast road trip with the first of three games against the Oakland A’s.
In other words, Gallo hasn’t been just a one-week wonder this season. He is improving, and the weekly honor validates it.
But why is it happening now?
And will he be able to keep it going?
“He’s attacking things that are going to help him for the long-term,” manager Chris Woodward said. “He’s going to be a much better player for a long time for what he’s doing right now.”
Woodward wasn’t talking about only the things Gallo has done with his approach and his swing. Gallo is facing his baseball fears head-on and overcoming them. He is still tough on himself, but he’s not beating himself up as much as he once did after a lousy game or even a lousy at-bat.
Gallo is getting closer to where he is embracing the difficult times rather than trying to run away from them. He’s confident, but not so much so that he has be come comfortable.
He seems to know the game can knock him down a peg really quickly.
At the same time, the past week might be the hottest he’s ever been.
“I think possibly, mentally and swing-wise and experience-wise,” Gallo said. “But I’ve been in pretty good zones before. A lot of things are just going right for me. I hit a pop fly and got an RBI and a single. I hit a ball that two inches this way and it’s foul. I have to attribute some of that to luck as well.”
An argument could be made that Gallo is creating his own luck.
He is much more patient at the plate, but that doesn’t necessarily only mean that he is no longer chasing pitchers’ pitches. Gallo also has a better idea of how pitchers are going after him, and is swinging only at pitches he can handle.
The work Gallo did in the off-season has helped him put inside pitches in play, closing one of the holes in his swing. His improved patience has closed others.
“When you get pitches in the zone, you’ve got to hit them,” Gallo said. “The tough thing about me was sometimes I would swing at strikes, but I would miss those strikes or I would foul them off. It’s being smart and swinging at pitches in the zone and pitches that I know I can handle.”
Gallo’s biggest game last week came Sunday in an 11-10 win over the Houston Astros. He drove in five runs with a triple, a groundout, a bloop single and the first sacrifice fly of his career.
Gallo also connected for two homers as the Rangers swept three games from the Los Angels Angels.
He leads the Rangers in homers (eight), RBIs (22), runs (17) and walks (11, tied with Shin-Soo Choo and Delino DeShields). His .734 slugging percentage leads the AL, his 1.116 OPS is second to Trout, and his RBIs are second to Domingo Santiago.
Woodward, though, looks at the big picture - the player Gallo is becoming.
“He could have a .500 OPS right now, and I’d still be proud of the work he’s put in,” Woodward said. “The fact that he has had success is tremendous for his own belief in what he’s doing.”