Yankees drop struggling Joey Gallo to No. 9 hole

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Joey Gallo snapped an 0-for-20 skid on Friday night, but it wasn’t enough to stop his fall down the Yankees’ lineup.

The scuffling outfielder dropped to the No. 9 spot for the first time this season on Saturday against Corey Kluber and the Rays at Tropicana Field. Gallo, who went 1-for-3 with a strikeout in the Yankees’ 3-1 loss, entered the game in the midst of a 2-for-29 slump over his last nine games, with one home run, five walks, 14 strikeouts and a .378 OPS while typically batting sixth or seventh in the lineup.

“The nine hole is a place I value,” manager Aaron Boone said. “I think there’s a pretty good fit there, especially as you turn over the lineup, when he’s going well [with] his ability to get on base. And just trying to space out our lineup a little bit, our lefties a little bit better.”

Boone has typically reserved the nine-hole for his catchers this season, with Jose Trevino, Kyle Higashioka or Rob Brantly batting there in 33 of the Yankees’ 46 games. But with Trevino swinging a hot bat of late, he jumped ahead of Gallo on Saturday.

Joey Gallo
Joey Gallo
Getty Images

It marked the first time Gallo has hit ninth since 2017, his first full season in the big leagues, when he batted last in the lineup 20 times for the Rangers.

After starting this season 4-for-33 (.121) with no home runs, six walks, 15 strikeouts and a .378 OPS over his first 12 games, Gallo had started to turn it around by going 13-for-51 (.255) with four home runs, six walks, 21 strikeouts and a .843 OPS over his next 17 games.

But that hot stretch has given way to another slump for the streaky Gallo, who also missed five games over the past week with COVID-like symptoms.

“Joey’s going to strike out at times,” Boone said. “Hopefully after having missed a couple days with the illness, where he was gaining some traction, he’ll get back in that. He had a big hit [Friday] in his first at-bat to kind of get us going a little bit. I think maybe it’s a spot he can potentially thrive in for us.”

Gallo’s hit on Friday was a single that got just past the second baseman playing in shallow right field as part of the Rays’ shift. It came on a four-seam fastball, a pitch that Gallo is hitting .290 against this season with a .677 slugging percentage, according to Baseball Savant. But he has struggled against breaking and offspeed pitches, hitting a combined .117 against them with just one extra-base hit.