It was just another Monday night in San Diego. The Milwaukee Brewers were in town for the first game of a three-games series against the Padres. Lefty Randy Wolf was on the mound for the Brewers, facing young righty Joe Wieland for San Diego. It was the fourth big-league start for Wieland, still looking for his first win. He’d been rocked by the Los Angeles Dodgers in his major-league debut, giving up six runs — including three home runs — in five innings at Dodger Stadium. But he’d righted the ship somewhat, allowing only one and two runs, respectively, and no home runs, in his last two starts, both at PetCo Park.
Indeed, through the first fourteen games of the season, batters had hit only fourteen home runs at PetCo Park. Not Padres batters — they’d hit only six — but all batters. That’s not terribly surprising given PetCo’s notorious park factors for home runs: .59 for left-handed batters and .95 for right-handed batters, according to StatCorner.
On this night, Brewers slugger Ryan Braun had other ideas.
Braun’s first plate appearance of the game came in the first inning. With a runner on first and one out, Braun flew out to center field. He next came to the plate in the fourth, with the Padres leading 1-to-0, and belted a solo opposite field shot into the beach area of right center field to tie the game. Braun batted again in the sixth, with the Brewers up 3-to-2. Rickie Weeks was on first after a walk, and with one out, Braun launched a two-run shot into the upper deck of the Western Metal Supply Co. section. Braun wasn’t done. In the seventh, now facing Padres right-handed reliever Ernesto Frieri, Braun hit his third home run in as many at bats with another solo shot, this time over the left field wall. Before Braun’s homer, Frieri had given up only one other home run all season, to left-handed Andre Ethier at Dodger Stadium.
Here’s the video of Braun’s back-to-back-to-back dingers:
Now, lots of players have had three-homer games, but none had ever done it at PetCo Park. Very few players have had three-homer games with other extra base hits. Even fewer have had four-homer games. If the Brewers could get a few guys on base, Braun would have another shot in the ninth inning.
With the Brewers up 6-to-3 in the ninth, Braun came to the plate with two on and two out and hit an 0-2 pitch just shy of the warning track in left center field. Two runs scored and Braun was into third with a stand-up triple. It looked like this.
The first three-homer game for any player at PetCo Park since it opened in 2004. Fifteen total bases in five plate appearances. Only seven other players in major-league history have hit three home runs and totaled fifteen bases in five plate appearances.
|1||Ryan Braun||2012-04-30||MIL||SDP||W 8-3||5||5||3||4||0||1||3||15||6||0|
|2||Albert Pujols||2004-07-20||STL||CHC||W 11-8||5||5||4||5||1||0||3||15||5||0|
|3||Shea Hillenbrand||2003-07-07||ARI||COL||W 14-6||5||5||4||5||1||0||3||15||7||0|
|4||John Valentin||1995-06-02||BOS||SEA||W 6-5||5||5||4||5||1||0||3||15||3||0|
|5||Willie Stargell||1968-05-22||PIT||CHC||W 13-6||5||5||4||5||1||0||3||15||7||0|
|6||Wes Westrum||1950-06-24||NYG||CIN||W 12-2||5||4||5||4||0||1||3||15||4||1|
|7||Les Bell||1928-06-02||BSN||CIN||L 12-20||5||5||4||4||0||1||3||15||6||0|
|8||High Pockets Kelly||1923-09-17||NYG||CHC||W 13-6||5||5||4||5||1||0||3||15||4||0|
Of those seven, only one did it in a ballpark with a park factor below 1.00 for hitters. Les Bell, playing for the Boston Braves in 1928, hit three home runs and a triple in a game against the Cincinnati Reds at old Braves Field in Boston, which has a .95 historical park factor for runs. (Historical park factors are not broken down by handedness or by type of hit). Good for Les Bell, but according to ESPN, PetCo Park’s park factor for runs this season is .756. That makes Braun’s feat more remarkable.
What about the players who hit three home runs in a game and had sixteen total bases? How do their offensive performances compare to Braun’s, when taking park factors into effect?
Only four players have done it and none did it in only five plate appearances:
|1||Edgardo Alfonzo||1999-08-30||NYM||HOU||W 17-1||6||6||6||6||1||0||3||16||5||0|
|2||Fred Lynn||1975-06-18||BOS||DET||W 15-1||6||6||4||5||0||1||3||16||10||0|
|3||Jimmie Foxx||1932-07-10||PHA||CLE||W 18-17||10||9||4||6||1||0||3||16||8||1|
|4||Ty Cobb||1925-05-05||DET||SLB||W 14-8||6||6||4||6||1||0||3||16||5||0|
Ty Cobb hit three home runs, one double and two singles in six plate appearances in a game at Sportsman’s Park III in St. Louis, which in 1925 had a 1.06 historical park factor for runs. Jimmie Fox hit three home runs, one double, one single and had one walk ten plate appearances in a game at League Park II in Cleveland, which in 1932, had a 1.02 historical park factor for runs. Fred Lynn hit three home runs, one triple, and one single in six plate appearances in a game at Fenway Park, which in 1975 had a 1.08 historical park factor for runs.
And then there’s the Astrodome.
On August 30, 1999, Edgardo Alfonzo of the New York Mets hit three home runs, one double, and two singles in six plate appearances in a game against the Astros in Houston. The historical park factor for runs at the Astrodome in its last season as a ballpark was .95. That’s higher than PetCo’s overall runs park factor this season (according to ESPN), but it’s the same as PetCo’s home run park factor for right-handed batters, according to StatCorner. We don’t have a specific home run park factor for the Astrodome, but it was notoriously the most difficult park to homer in when it was in use. In the thirty-five seasons the Astros played their home games in there, only three players hit three home runs in a single game: Alfonzo, Jeff Bagwell (on June 24, 1994), and Jimmy Wynn (on June 15, 1967).
Did Braun’s performance last night outshine Alfonzo’s monster game at the Astrodome in the 1999? Based on what we know now, I’d say no. But it’s very close. If, after thirty-five seasons at PetCo Park (if the Padres don’t move the fences in), no one else has a three homer/one-triple game there, I might look back and change my mind.