Tigers defend Gallo with four outfielders

Detroit Tigers

DETROIT — Tigers manager A.J. Hinch has talked for weeks about the glut of young players he’s trying to get into his outfield. As Rangers slugger Joey Gallo looked out — way out — to the Tigers’ defense the last few nights, this wasn’t what Hinch meant.

Comerica Park boasts one of the largest outfields in baseball thanks to the distant fences. But each time Gallo stepped to the plate this week with nobody on base, it looked borderline crowded. One of the Tigers’ infielders joined the three outfielders, essentially creating a left- and right-center fielder in addition to the corner outfielders. Second baseman Harold Castro shifted into short right field, with shortstop Zack Short moving where the second baseman would normally play. First baseman Jonathan Schoop took a few steps back.

“If Schoop would’ve taken one foot back, we’d have had every defender on the grass,” Hinch joked Wednesday afternoon. “But he decided to play on the dirt, and that disappointed me and our analytics team.”

A few hours later, as Gallo stepped to the plate for his first at-bat Wednesday night, Schoop slowly crept further back until he stood on the edge of the grass.

“You look up there and nobody’s on the infield,” Short said. “It’s like something you’ve never seen before. I’ve never seen it before. But we work on that. We’re taking ground balls in the outfield. It’s a little bit different going from dirt to grass.”

The Tigers aren’t the first team to do this. Rays manager Kevin Cash garnered attention previously with a four-man-outfield shift. But with seven games between the Tigers and Rangers over the last two-plus weeks, Hinch has taken the Gallo Shift to another level, essentially daring the left-handed-hitting slugger to knock the ball to the opposite field, where there’s nobody standing between home plate and the left fielder.

“Joey Gallo is one of the best players and one of the most dangerous players in baseball, and I love him,” Hinch said. “But I’ve gotten to play a lot of different alignments against him.”

The shifts have looked slightly different from day to day. But the goal is the same: Lower the odds of Gallo pulling a hard-hit ball for extra bases, and dare him to take a ground-ball single — or even a double — to the left side.

“That’s what they want you to do. They want you to take your little weak single,” Short said. “That’s obviously where the game is now. They’re not going to pay Joey Gallo to hit four bunts a night.”

Gallo did try a bunt Tuesday night. Had he placed it right, he might have had extra bases out of it. But it went foul, and he went on to strike out swinging.

“If he’d like to bunt, I will stand up and tip my cap and see him at first base,” Hinch said, “which is better than some of the things he can do, which are game-changing.”

Gallo went 1-for-10 over the first three games of the series, after going 4-for-10 with three home runs against the Tigers earlier this month in Texas. Ironically, he ended his hitless series in Detroit by beating the shift on a ground ball up the middle, putting him on base to score on former Tiger John Hicks’ double over a three-man outfield and into the gap.

“We’re playing chess, as he is as well. It’s all such a mind game,” Short said.

Articles You May Like

Dodgers 3, Tigers 2: That’s what the best teams do
Hens fall in series opener
Tigers hire Jeff Greenberg as new General Manager
Game Story: Tigers strike first vs. A’s ▶️
Tigers 4, Dodgers 2: Tigers dodge the sweep in LA

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *