The Boston Red Sox is a historic franchise that is filled with Hall of Famers and world champions. So when Mookie Betts did something involving the long ball that not even David Ortiz has done concerning the long ball, it raised many eyebrows. Brandon Magee takes a walk down memory lane to discuss the Boston Red Sox three home run club, and their most recent member.
On Tuesday, May 31, in Baltimore, Mookie Betts joined a select group of Boston Red Sox who have knocked three balls out of the park in one game. The group includes all-time greats, Red Sox legends, and a few players that have been lost in the mists of time. Today we finish our celebration of Betts’s ascension to this band of ballplayers by looking back at the others who have accomplished the feat.
One Time is Still Historic
Tom Brunansky’s most famous play in a Red Sox uniform was the division winning catch on October 3, 1990. However, his most important game may have come a few days earlier on September 29 against the Toronto Blue Jays – the team that was chasing the Red Sox in the AL East.
Leading off the fifth inning, Brunansky rocketed a ball over the Green Monster on a Todd Stottlemyre pitch, putting the first run of the game on the board. In the next inning, Brunansky came up with Mike Greenwell and Dwight Evans on base, and two runs already in, and once again drove a pitch – thrown by Duane Ward – over the Monster, placing Boston up 6-0. In the eighth inning, Brunansky would face reliever Rick Luecken and would once again send the ball towards the Mass Pike, putting the Red Sox up 7-0. Toronto was not done, however, as they picked up five runs against Dennis Lamp in the 9th before Jeff Reardon quelled the wildfire.
Brunansky’s three-bomb night gave him fifteen for the season. He would hit 56 in four seasons with Boston, and 271 for his career.
While three home run games are always exciting, hitting a walk-off home run is an event. Walking off in extra-innings? A spectacle. Combining all the events? That was Jack Clark’s day on July 31, 1991 at Fenway Park.
Clark came up for his second at-bat of the game in the third inning. The bases were loaded with Wade Boggs, Jody Reed, and Mo Vaughn. Clark drove Dave Stewart’s offering over the Green Monster for a grand slam. In the eighth inning, Clark would tag a Gene Nelson pitch out of the park, drawing the Red Sox to within one run of the Oakland A’s. The Red Sox would tie the score at 10 in the bottom of the ninth on an RBI single by Wade Boggs. The game would continue with no additional scoring until the 14th inning when Clark would come up again. With two outs and nobody on base, Jack took a pitch by Steve Chitren over the Monster and sent the Fenway Faithful home happy.
Clark hit 28 homers in 1991, his first season with Boston, and hit 340 in his career.
If there was ever a game where a perfect night was needed, it may have been June 2, 1995. In a 6-5 10th-inning, walk-off win over the Seattle Mariners, John Valentin had the perfect night.
Valentin started things off in the first, slamming a pitch off Chris Bosio out of Fenway, putting the Sox up 1-0. In the third, he would repeat his first inning feat and put the Sox back up by a run, 2-1. In the sixth, Valentin singled and scored the third Red Sox run, pulling the Sox within two, 5-3. He would lead off the eighth inning with his third shot over the Monster, this time off Ron Villone, and placing the Sox within a run, 5-4. The Red Sox would tie the game at 5 in the bottom of the 9th on a Mike MacFarlane home run off Bobby Ayala. The game was still tied at 5 when Valentin led off the 10th inning with a chance for his fourth and a walk-off win. Instead, Valentin would ground a double off Salomon Torres. Although he was knocked down at third on a sacrifice bunt attempt, the Red Sox would score immediately after, as Mike Greenwell singled in Mo Vaughn from second base.
Valentin would hit a career high 27 bombs in the 1995 season, and hit 124 in his eleven-season major league career.
Tiger Stadium played host to both Carl Yastrzemski’s and Fred Lynn’s three-homer nights in the 1970s. On July 24, 1999, it gave another Red Sox player, one with a perfect name, his ascension to the club. The player was Christopher Trotman Nixon.
Batting out of the nine-spot, Trot had his first at-bat in the top of the second in a ballgame tied at one. With Jason Varitek and Darren Lewis on the bases, Nixon would trot around the bases after knocking a Jeff Weaver pitch over the left-centerfield wall, giving the Red Sox a 4-1 lead. In his next at-bat in the fourth, he would again take Weaver over the fence, this time for a solo blast that put the Red Sox ahead 6-2. Nixon would ground out leading off the sixth inning against Willie Blair. He had one more shot to join the elusive club in the eighth inning, and Nixon did not miss his chance. In his second at-bat against Blair, Nixon crushed a pitch to right field and after this trot around the bases, the score was 10-4 in favor of Boston. The Red Sox would end up winning the slugfest – the Red Sox hit four home runs in addition to Trot’s three and the Tigers added three of their own – 11-4.
Nixon would end the 1999 season with 15 home runs and placed ninth in rookie of the year balloting. Trotman had a total of 137 home run trots in his 12-season career.
The 2001 season was one of elation followed by deep disappointment for catcher Jason Varitek. The elation happened on the road in Kansas City on May 20, where Kauffman Stadium provided the backdrop for his three-bomb day.
Batting out of the eight hole , Varitek would tie the game at one in the second inning, knocking a Brian Meadows pitch out of the park. In the fourth inning, after Manny Ramirez had broken a tie with a solo shot earlier in the inning, Varitek stepped up to the plate with Dante Bichette and Shea Hillenbrand on base. He would knock Brian Meadows out of the park and out of the game, placing Boston ahead 5-1. In Jason’s first attempt to join the three homer club in the sixth, he instead hit an RBI-single off of Jose Santiago, giving Boston a 6-1 lead. He would get another chance in the eighth inning, and with Hillenbrand on board, knocked a Mac Suzuki pitch into the Kansas City twilight, putting the Sox up 9-1 in a game they would go on to win 10-3
Varitek hit seven home runs in 2001, a season cut short by a broken left elbow suffered just three weeks later, on June 7. Varitek would compile 193 long balls in his 15-season Red Sox career.
2004 will always be remembered well by Red Sox Nation. Duck Boats, Reverse the Curse, the Greatest Comeback in baseball history, 86 years no more. With all the drama that came during the season, it would be easy to forget an 8-7 loss to the hated Yankees on July 23. In a season of such elation, a one-run loss can easily be ignored… except that is when Kevin Millar had his three home-run day.
Millar started his assault on Yankees pitching in the fourth inning, knocking a Jon Lieber offering out of Fenway Park and putting the Sox up 4-1. After a disastrous top of the sixth inning for Curt Schilling – allowing five runs and putting the Yankees up 7-4 – Millar would come up against Paul Quantrill and make it a two-run ball game, knocking out his second solo bomb of the day. Millar would lead off the bottom of the eighth with his third solo shot of the night, this time off Tom Gordon, tying the game up at 7. He would not get another chance for a fourth, as the Yankees would score in the top of the ninth off Keith Foulke and Mariano Rivera would set down Manny Ramirez, Nomar Garciaparra, and Trot Nixon in order in the bottom of the ninth; leaving Millar in the on-deck circle.
Millar would knock 15 other balls over the fences in the regular season in 2004, and totalled 170 bombs in his 12-season career.
Coors Field has seen its fair share of hitting exploits. On June 24, 2010, it was the backdrop to a heroic performance by Dustin Pedroia.
In the first inning, Dustin started his night with a double off Colorado Rockies’ starter Jason Hammel. Leading off the fourth inning, Pedroia knocked a Hammel pitch into the Denver night, putting the Sox on the board. He would lead off the next inning as well, drawing a walk from reliever Franklin Morales. After the Red Sox gave up the lead in the bottom of the sixth, Pedroia would single against Joe Beimel. The Red Sox would regain the lead, 9-8, thanks to an RBI single by Adrian Beltre and a two-RBI double by Jason Varitek. As the third batter of the eighth, Pedroia would pull a Rafael Betancourt pitch out of Coors, driving in Daniel Nava and putting Boston up by three runs. The Rockies would score a run in the eighth against Scott Atchison and tie the score with two in the ninth against Jonathan Papelbon, giving Dustin another shot at the trifecta. With two outs and Marco Scutaro on first, Pedroia drove a Huston Street pitch over the left field wall, giving the Red Sox a 13-11 lead and when Papelbon sent the Rockies down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the tenth, a two-run victory.
The elation of Dustin’s five-hit, three-bomb day was short-lived. The very next day in San Francisco, Pedroia fouled a Jonathan Sanchez pitch off his foot, breaking it and putting him on the disabled list. The injury would essentially end his season, as he returned for just two games in August. Pedroia finished with 12 home runs on the season, and has hit 125 thus far in his Red Sox career.
After establishing himself in the major leagues in 2012, Will Middlebrooks started the 2013 season as the starting third baseman of the Boston Red Sox. During the sixth game of the 2013 season, on April 7 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Will showed how good he could be.
Middlebrooks started his assault on Blue Jays pitching in the first, knocking the first R.A. Dickey knuckler he saw over the right field wall, scoring Mike Napoli and putting the Red Sox up 5-0. In the third, Middlebrooks would double off Dickey and would score Boston’s sixth run on a sacrifice fly by Daniel Nava. Leading off the fifth inning, Middlebrooks would drive a Dickey offering over the wall, putting Boston up 7-0. Will would also lead off the seventh inning, and would take a 3-1 pitch by Dave Bush out of the park, giving the Sox a 9-0 advantage. Middlebrooks had a chance for the quartet in the eighth, launching a Dave Bush pitch to deep left but it settled into Melky Cabrera’s glove for the out. Will’s 4-for-5 day paced the Red Sox to a 13-0 pasting of the Jays.
Middlebrooks, prone to inconsistency, would get only four singles over his next 43 at-bats before picking up his fifth home run of the season on April 22. Although Will would hit 17 bombs during the 2013 season, Xander Bogaerts would end up taking over at third base during the Red Sox playoff run and eventual world championship. Middlebrooks, currently struggling with the Milwaukee Brewers AAA affiliate in Colorado Springs, has 43 career MLB home runs.
On May 31, 2016, the legend of Mookie Betts added a new chapter. The backdrop: Orioles’ Park at Camden Yards against the Baltimore Orioles.
Betts started the game off on the right foot, driving the second pitch he saw from Kevin Gausman over the centerfield wall and putting the Sox up 1-0. Dustin Pedroia would follow Betts with a blow of his own. Betts would come up again the very next inning, and with Chris Young and Christian Vazquez on the bases, pulled another Gausman offering over the fence, putting the Red Sox up 5-0. Betts would line-out in the fourth in his first attempt at three home runs, but would not miss in his second attempt. Facing Dylan Bundy, Mookie took the fourth pitch he saw the opposite way, hitting his first opposite-field homer of his MLB career and capping off the scoring with the Sox up 6-2. Betts’ would have a chance at the quartet in the ninth against Ashur Tolliver, but ground out to second.
Betts attempted to be the first player in MLB history to have back-to-back 3-HR games on June 1, when he started the game off with another solo blast off of Mike Wright. He would victimize Wright again in the second, for his second home run of the night. Betts would have three more chances to make history, walking in the third, grounding out in the sixth, and walking again in the eighth. He was left standing in the on-deck circle as Ryan Hanigan grounded out to third base, ending the Red Sox night with a 13-9 loss.
Betts did become the first major league player to hit home runs in the first two innings of consecutive games and joined an elite club of players who have hit five home runs in two games; joining Carl Yastrzemski and Nomar Garciaparra as Red Sox on the list.
Betts is well on his way to his career high in home runs, with 14 thus far this season. Mookie has 37 bombs in his first 251 major league games.
Who will be the next Red Sox player to join the list? Given the strange nature of the feat, it could be anyone… and it could happen at any time.
Brandon Magee is our minor league expert; he has written about minor league travel, ranking prospects, a first round draft pick, and the MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Follow Brandon on Twitter @cuzittt.