James Hoyt, as always, was pitching from the stretch. He lifted his left leg to begin his motion, as he had on the first pitch of the at-bat (a ball) and the second (a swinging strike), and tapped the ball almost imperceptibly into the heel of his glove. A pitcher’s motion is a tapestry of muscle memories, every tic and idiosyncrasy an essential part of ensuring that the ball leaves the hand at just the right millisecond, but in a way that looks exactly the same as each other pitches, if possible. Deception, consistency, and accuracy. Left leg, tap slightly, and step, and throw.
Hoyt’s delivery leaves him looking slightly hunched at the shoulders, which is mildly amusing since Hoyt is six feet six inches tall. His stride towards the plate is long, and it makes a 92mph fastball seem faster. That is what Hoyt threw on this particular pitch. A 92mph fastball.
As Hoyt’s left leg lands near the bottom of the pitcher’s mound, Joey Gallo’s right leg, which has been aimed nearly at the first baseman, curls up a little. His foot takes leave of the ground, and when it returns, it is aimed at the third baseman, and his legs are now aligned, pointing almost directly at the pitcher. Much like a windup, a batting stance and leg kick are pure muscle memory, designed to keep a batter balanced, measured, and able to see a pitch, while also providing the most amount of torque possible.
Gallo sees the 92mph fastball and decides in less than one half of one second whether he thinks it will be out of the zone (don’t swing) or in the zone (call forth the hammer of Thor). This one, Gallo thinks, is in the zone. He converts the leg kick into a hip twist, into a torso twist, and his massive arms, now being pulled by the rest of his body towards the pitcher, engage and swing a piece of wood hard enough to make air audible.
On this particular swing, at this particular fastball, Gallo is right, and his swing is true. The cover of this baseball has never endured such violence, which is notable, seeing as it is made of leather. It reverses course with an additional 22mph of speed: 112mph.
The ball soars through the air and clears the new center field wall in Minute Maid Park. When it lands, the lasers and computers send their data to the servers, and the servers enter the data in a spreadsheet, and someone looks at the spreadsheet and says:
Good lord Joey Gallo pic.twitter.com/68BYb7J9iv— Daren Willman (@darenw) June 15, 2017
The ball has gone 466 feet. It is the third-longest home run in Minute Maid Park history, just three feet short of the record.
That is what happened on Wednesday night in Houston as the Rangers wrapped up a remarkable 5-1 road trip against the first place Washington Nationals and the first-place Houston Astros.
The final score was 13-2 Houston.
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