By Anthony Andro, The Sports Xchange
ARLINGTON, Texas — Texas third baseman Joey Gallo is starting to find his comfort level in the major leagues, which could be a bad thing for opponents.
Gallo, filling in for an injured Adrian Beltre, hit a three-run homer and had a career-high five RBIs as the Rangers beat the Oakland Athletics 8-1 on Sunday for their first series win of the year.
Gallo went 1-for-25 last year in a brief stint with Texas but already has two homers and seven RBIs this season.
Sunday he provided the early spark when he smacked a three-run homer off Sean Manaea (0-1) in the second inning. He then capped a three-run sixth inning when he lined a two-run single to right off Frankie Montas.
“It’s just kind of, I’ve been here, this is my third year, starting to get to know the guys a little more, the team a little more,” said Gallo, who played in 36 games for the Rangers in 2015. “And you just feel comfortable. I think coming from spring training straight here, you kind of keep that mojo and that chemistry going. I’ve kind of taken a lot of pressure off myself and allowed myself to be human a little bit and make mistakes and fail and come at it again the next day.”
Gallo’s Sunday effort was more than enough for a Texas staff that used five pitchers to tame the A’s, who stranded 11 baserunners. Lefty Martin Perez (1-1) allowed six hits in 5 1/3 scoreless innings while striking out six and walking three.
Manaea set a career high with 10 strikeouts, and he allowed just three hits in his 5 1/3 innings. However, he also struggled to find the strike zone, walking two, hitting two and throwing a wild pitch. He struck out six consecutive Rangers at one point.
“That’s just kind of one of those things I’ve mentally been working on,” Manaea said. “Like I said in the past, those situations are going to come up more times and I feel like just having those mental reps, just knowing when to bear down and focus and really focus where I’m trying to throw the pitches has been huge.”
Gallo’s RBI single marked the first hit on an 0-2 count in his big-league career after being 0-for-42 in those situations. Texas loaded the bases in the sixth on a walk, a hit batter and an error. Robinson Chirinos then worked a walk off Montas to put the Rangers up 4-0 and bring up Gallo for his two-run single.
“I think more than anything else, as the season started the competitive at-bats continued to build upon themselves,” Texas manager Jeff Banister said of Gallo. “You could kind of see some of this coming. He was pushing the ball forward. There were some positive results as far as balls he was putting in play. Just the mannerism of how he walks around the clubhouse. He feels like he belongs here. You see it. You see it in the defense. I think he was rewarded today with a big day.”
The A’s had their chances against Perez but left two runners on in the third and fourth innings and then left the bases loaded in the fifth. The A’s chased Perez in the sixth, but lefty Jose Leclerc got the final two outs of that frame with runners on second and third.
“Those games are going to happen,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “It doesn’t mean you are going to feel good about it. It’s frustrating, they’re working really hard. I mean this group works as hard as any group I’ve been around. I mean we have no BP today and everybody is out there taking ground balls, getting ready for the game. They continue to work at the same pace we’ve seen in spring training, it was just a tough game for us.”
Oakland’s lone run scored in the eighth on a Matt Bush wild pitch.
Chirinos gave the Rangers some more breathing room with a two-run homer in the eighth as he finished with three RBIs.
Ryan Rua also had two hits for Texas. Khris Davis and Josh Phegley each had two hits for Oakland.