NEW YORK — Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the short distance to the right-field wall in Yankee Stadium, which multiple Mariners players labeled a “joke” with modifying words not fit for print, is the gnawing feeling that every time it might help a visiting team pick up a win, it will always help the Yankees more in the end.
The Mariners saw that play out once again Thursday night.
The short porch in right field helped provide them with a pair of solo homers, including Jarred Kelenic’s wall-scraping line drive in the seventh inning that gave them a one-run lead.
But in the bottom of the seventh, one of the newest big-bodied bombers in pinstripes and a familiar nemesis from the American League West used it to an advantage that he doesn’t really need.
Joey Gallo, now a Yankee after the Rangers finally understood a contract extension wasn’t likely and traded him a week ago, hit a preposterous three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh to provide the difference in the Yankees’ 5-3 win over the Mariners.
Usually when you are discussing the ridiculousness of Gallo’s home runs, it’s because of the can’t-believe-your-eyes distance of some of his blasts.
But this one was more about height.
Given a 3-2 lead from Kelenic’s homer, right-hander Paul Sewald started the seventh inning and got two quick outs. But singles from Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton brought Gallo to the plate.
After missing up and away with a fastball, Sewald came back with a slider — his best pitch. The ball caught too much of the middle of the plate.
“Probably more of the plate than he wanted,” manager Scott Servais said.
Gallo took a vicious swing with an even more pronounced upper cut than usual. It resulted in a towering fly ball that went higher than the foul pole in right field.
Right fielder Mitch Haniger camped under it, waiting for it to come down. As he started to drift back, he realized the wall wouldn’t let him go any farther. He tried to set himself to make a leaping grab, but it was a few feet out of his reach.
“Off the bat, it sounded great,” Kelenic said as he watched from center field. “With that short porch in right, you kind of figure that anything really hit that high is gonna go out.”
The crowd of 33,211, rising and cheering in anticipation as the ball kept carrying, exploded in celebration. It was Gallo’s first homer as a member of the Yankees.
“Give them some credit, they threw some good at-bats on Sewald,” Servais said. “Judge gets a 3-2 single, Stanton gets the count to 3-2 and gets a single and then Gallo hits a 315-foot pop-up that ends up in the seats here.”
Per MLB statcast data, the ball left the bat with a 109-mph exit velocity at a launch angle of 48 degrees. It had hang time of 7.3 seconds. Despite his hulking size, Gallo is a high-level athlete that can run the 60-yard dash in under 7 seconds.
According statcast data, the expected batting range is .200 on a hit with that exit velocity and launch angle. It’s the highest launch angle on a homer by any Yankee player since Statcast starting tracking data. It tied a homer from Mark Teixeira in 2015.
This season Mike Zunino had a homer with a 48-degree launch angle while Carlos Correa had a 49-degree launch angle.
Down two runs, Seattle made a last gasp in the ninth against Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman. Kelenic worked a one-out walk and an infield single from J.P. Crawford brought the go-ahead run to the plate in Haniger. He battled Chapman and hit a slider to deep left that was caught at the wall by Gallo.
“The ballpark certainly has its challenges more so than maybe anywhere else in the American League,” Servais said. “But both clubs are playing in it. They’ve got a lot of power. They got some additions in the left-handed hitters and they make a big change for their lineup. No excuses. They got a pop up tonight that went over the fence. Our guy hit the ball really hard at the end of the game and they caught it right at the fence.”
Of course, that same short porch in right field benefited the Mariners, who wouldn’t have had two of their three runs in a different ballpark. Besides Kelenic’s solo homer, Kyle Seager also got a solo homer that was a Yankee Stadium special.
With the scored tied at 1-1 in the fourth inning, Seager hit a high fly ball to the right field corner. The ball stayed up in the air and kept carrying. Aaron Judge, who has played right field in Yankee Stadium long enough, stopped short of the warning track, knowing he would run out of room to catch what seemed like a routine fly ball off the bat.
The solo shot was Seager’s 23rd homer of the season gave Seattle a brief 2-1 lead.