Ryan Braun’s Three Homer Game, In Perspective

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.

He did.

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.

Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt PA AB R H 2B 3B HR TB RBI BB
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/1/2012.

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:

Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt PA AB R H 2B 3B HR TB RBI BB
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/1/2012.

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.




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Wendy's baseball writing has also been published by Sports on Earth. ESPN.com, SB Nation, The Score, Bay Area Sports Guy, The Classical and San Francisco Magazine. Wendy practiced law for 18 years before beginning her writing career. You can find her work at wendythurm.pressfolios.com and follow her on Twitter @hangingsliders.


27 Responses to “Ryan Braun’s Three Homer Game, In Perspective”

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  1. JohnChoiniere says:

    Mike Cameron hit four home runs in his first four PAs on May 2, 2002. He then was hit by a pitch in his fifth, and flew out at the warning track in the 9th. Probably worth mentioning, too.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CHA/CHA200205020.shtml

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    • Wendy Thurm says:

      Sure, there are thirteen players who’ve hit 4 home runs in a game, Cameron among them. I wasn’t comparing Braun’s performance to any of theirs. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

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  2. Jim says:

    It was also the anniversary of Willie mays hitting 4 HR in one game

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  3. Tim says:

    roids

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  4. Cecil Cooper's Twin says:

    I guess everyone can stop wringing their hands over Braun not performing without the aid of enhancers. The Hammer put the exclamation point on his verdict last night! Not Guilty!

    I’m sure the boo birds will be in full force at every stop, but it is becoming clearer and clearer that he was wrongly accused.

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    • Joe Jonas says:

      ^^^^ This comment is nonsensical.

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    • TheGrandslamwich says:

      How is this any indication of him being wrongfully accused? The effects of using PEDs don’t completely disappear overnight when you stop.

      I’m not commenting on whether he did or did not, just that you can’t infer anything from his present performance about his past actions.

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      • oh Hal says:

        You would have had to follow the story. Rob Manfred and the Olympic testing people believed not that he was a long time user but that he chose to “amp up” for the playoffs. Besides them, there have been innumerable commentators who believed that his performance would drop because he wasn’t able to enhance it with steroids. Yes, that is non-sensical, but it was and is widespread.

        FWIW, he doesn’t show the physical signs that come with use. They showed a picture of him getting his first hit there at Petco and if they didn’t mention it, it could easily have been yesterday.

        So maybe it isn’t “proof” but it refutes much of what has been said.

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      • vivalajeter says:

        If he used steroids to ‘amp up’ for the playoffs, then he wasn’t wrong accused. Furthermore, if it was just for the playoffs then why would we expect a drop off in his regular season performance this year?

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    • MikeS says:

      Hitting 3 home runs and a triple that one-hops the right center field wall in PETCO could conceivably be taken as evidence that he is having his performance enhanced by some substance.

      In reality, it’s not really “proof” of anything.

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    • West says:

      I’m sure when he and A-rod work out, its nothing but good clean fun! Ignorance is bliss.

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      • I am a Red Sux Fan says:

        You just painted a weird picture in my head of AROD and BRAUN chasing each other around some gym trying to poke each other in the ass with hypodermic needles.

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  5. TKDC says:

    You seem to be trying to make Braun’s night more special with some ESPNish distinctions. For example, if Petco has a .95 ballpark factor for righties, why is the Braves Field .95 overall not comparible. Also, the 5 PAs seems arbitrary. How is this better than 15 tb in any 5 AB game?

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  6. Wendy Thurm says:

    The point of the post is to put Braun’s achievement in context. Given different eras and ball parks, how does it compare?

    We don’t know what Braves Field was for RHBs hitting home runs. All we have is an overall park factor for runs scored. Maybe it’s equivalent to what Braun did. There’s an argument for that.

    Same with Astrodome. The runs scored park factor is worse at PetCo but we know the Astrodome was a notoriously difficult park to hit home runs in. That’s why I give the edge to Alfonzo. You can draw your own conclusions.

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  7. SFSUGatorAlum says:

    That Jimmie Foxx boxscore is straight goofy.

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    • Tim says:

      Eddie Rommel, pitching on the third straight day, came in to start the second and pitched seventeen innings to get the win. I don’t think hitting three home runs is all that impressive, comparatively.

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  8. thalooch says:

    so, he’s back on the juice….big deal

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  9. junker23 says:

    Two runs scored and Braun was into third with a stand-up triple.

    Doesn’t look very stand-upish to me – Screencap

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  10. Hurtlockertwo says:

    The amazing part is the fan that caught the HR bare handed that went into the third deck of the Western Metal Building.

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  11. Greenbean says:

    Ty Cobb had three hits in his first three ABs the next day. Giving him nine straight PAs with a hit. In those 9 PAs he had five home-runs, three singles, and a double.

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  12. Shaun Catron says:

    Why do people saying Braun roids get thumbed down?

    It’s clearly the elephant in the room here but certain people mention it.

    He got off on a technicality.

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