MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees

Three(-run) cheers for Gleyber Torres

Gleyber Torres has been raining threes this in his debut season. By raining threes, I mean hitting a bunch of three-run home runs, of course. Though, considering how badly the Houston Rockets needed a three in game seven of the Western Conference finals, maybe they should have given Gleyber a call. Terrible joke aside, nobody else in baseball would have made Earl Weaver happier than Torres this season:

Gleyber has been incredible since his promotion. It’s impressive that he leads the league in three-run home runs, even though it’s somewhat of an arbitrary thing – have to be in the right place at the right time. Still, there’s more to these select home runs than that they put three runs on the board. Let’s take a look at each one:

May 4: His first career home run

It was scoreless against Cleveland in the fourth inning until Torres stepped up to the plate. The rook didn’t wait long, as he launched the first pitch Josh Tomlin offered. The offering came in slowly and departed the ballpark quickly. Tomlin’s 73 MPH curveball hung in the heart of the zone and Gleyber crushed it 420 feet and a hair under 106 MPH.

First career home runs are often memorable. One that’s hard to forget was Aaron Judge’s first blast, a moonshot off the restaurant above Monument Park. Sometimes, they can be a sign of things to come. We’re used to Judge’s mammoth shots nowadays, but even after Torres’s first blast, nobody was expecting him to turn into a power hitter. Twelve home runs later, and here we are. It sure seems like power is part of his game.

Not only this home run a sign of his power, but it also foreshadowed many of his future home runs. There are four more three-run dingers to be discussed ahead, as obvious from the format of this piece, but I’ll spare you from spoilers on what else it foreshadowed for now.

May 6: The walk-off

This one has to be everyone’s favorite Torres home run thus far, right? Everyone loves a good walk-off homer, especially from a rookie with promise. It capped off an epic win, as the Yankees were down 4-0 with only four outs to play with.

The comeback began in the eighth thanks to a two-out rally, and the Bombers eventually tied it in the ninth on a Neil Walker double. Those runs came against Cody Allen, who was going for a six out save. After the score was even, Terry Francona lifted his closer in favor of Dan Otero. A couple of batters later, after an intentional walk to Giancarlo Stanton, up came Torres. On a full count pitch, Torres did not miss. He launched an 88 MPH sinker into the Yankees bullpen in right-center. Like his first home run, this one was no cheapie: 104 MPH off the bat and it traveled 415 feet.

May 19: A theme emerges

The score was level at two apiece in Kansas City with southpaw Danny Duffy on the mound when Torres struck again. Clint Frazier and Ronald Torreyes reached base to start the frame. Do I really need to tell you what happened next? Yes, Torres connected on another three-run homer. It was his fourth long ball of the year and third of the three-run variety. Perhaps more impressive was that this came on a 1-2 pitch, which is a count that most hitters are looking to simply put the ball in play. Torres got a hanging slider and probably could have settled for a single with a protective two out hack. Instead, he recognized the opportunity and punished the ball 106 MPH and 407 feet.

So, what about the theme I hinted at in the subhead? No, it’s not three-run dingers. That’s the overarching topic here. Rather, the theme is that all of them to this point were with the game tied. And that leads us to…

May 23: Yet another tiebreaker

The series against the Rangers in Texas was when Torres went on a big power surge. During that three-game series, he hit four long balls (and one in each game). His one three-run shot of the bunch came in the rubber game of the set. The details:

In the top of the fifth inning, the score was tied at five. Up came Torres with two runners aboard. As you know by now, Torres only hits clutch three-run bombs when the game is tied. Behind in the count 0-2, Rangers’ starter, Doug Fister tried to jam the 21-year-old with an 88 MPH two-seamer. Torres kept his hands in, turned on the pitch, and skied it into the left field seats 401 feet away from home plate. The ball left his bat over 101 MPH.

Know what else these three-run home runs have in common? Three of the four came on two-strike counts. The walk-off was on a full count, the one in Kansas City was on a 1-2 pitch, and this one 0-2. So much for protecting the plate when down to the last strike!

Unfortunately, the Yankees bullpen lost this game in horrendous fashion, blowing a 10-5 lead to eventually lose 12-10. That stinker sort of washed away the memory of Torres’s heroics.

June 14: Coming up clutch (again)

It took three weeks for Torres to deliver another three-run homer. Slacker. On this most recent one, Torres bucked the trend of tiebreakers.

Down 2-0 to Tampa Bay’s Blake Snell in the fifth, Aaron Hicks hit an opposite-field homer to right to cut the lead to one run. A few batters later, Torres came up in a familiar situation: with two runners on base. Like clockwork, he delivered. Snell tried to zip a 3-2 fastball past Torres after blowing similar pitches by him earlier. This time, Torres was ready, as he drilled his fifth three-run homer to left. 96 MPH in, 102 MPH out. When it landed 393 feet away, the Yankees were up 4-2.

Wait a second, this one wasn’t with the score tied, what gives? Hey, hitting one down a run is even better.

Aaron Boone’s lineup is a juggernaut. There are certainly better hitters than Torres on this team – at least for now – such as Judge, Stanton, and Sanchez. I know that Stanton and Sanchez have been underwhelming, but they have the track record over Torres. Yet, is there anyone you’d rather have up than Gleyber in an important situation? I don’t think so. Not only have all five of his three-run home runs come with the game tied or the Yankees down one run, but he also has a 410 wRC+ in high leverage situations. This 21-year-old’s composure has been nothing short of remarkable.

Photo Credit: Noah K. Murray / USA TODAY Sports

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