Scooter Gennett, think of him as America’s little brother, on Tuesday night hit four home runs in a baseball game, a feat he considered and then observed, “It may be a little short of a miracle.”
Over more than a century of baseball, 16 men had homered four times in a game. The last was Josh Hamilton, five years ago. Most, like Hamilton – the likes of Carlos Delgado, Shawn Green, Mike Cameron and Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt, Lou Gehrig and Willie Mays – were reputed sluggers. Twelve of the 16 hit at least 200 home runs in their careers. Nine hit 300 or more.
Along came Scooter Gennett, 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, 38 career home runs, and one of the great offensive nights in baseball history. He is a second baseman for the Cincinnati Reds, was released a little more than two months ago by the Milwaukee Brewers, and just Monday night broke a 19-at-bat hitless streak.
A left-handed hitter with just enough oomph to have hit 14 home runs last season, the Cincinnati-born Gennett batted fifth Tuesday night at Great American Ball Park against the St. Louis Cardinals.
In the first inning, he singled to left field against Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright. It was the warm up.
In the third, he hit a grand slam to right field off Wainwright.
In the fourth, he hit a two-run home run to center field, again off Wainwright.
In the sixth, he homered to left, just to the fair side of the foul pole, against reliever John Gant.
That was three.
“My teammates were awesome the whole time,” Gennett told reporters in Cincinnati, with a laugh, “letting me know exactly what I needed to do and how many home runs I had at each point.”
In the eighth, against reliever John Brebbia, with two strikes against him, Gennett swung again at a high fastball. He appeared to swing very hard.
“You know, that’s the thing, I really didn’t,” he said. “Maybe, obviously, it looked like it. But my batting glove got caught in my other hand and I released with one hand. It was like, Ahhh. Because I know that if I try to hit a home run it’s not going to happen. So I just tried to relax and put a good swing on the ball and it ended up working out.”
The ball cleared the right field fence by a few feet, by plenty. Over about 2 ½ hours, he’d racked up five hits, 17 total bases, 10 RBI and an even grander appreciation for what the game offers.
“That’s baseball, man,” he said. “It’s a crazy game. That’s why you never give up. You always try to get better, make adjustments, and I did just that. Our hitting coach, Don [Long], he’s worked with me lately to kind of fine tune some things. And I think we did just that tonight.
“It feels pretty cool. That’s something I never thought I would do. Even three home runs would be too crazy for me. Obviously it was a good night. Made a few adjustments, with not so much my stance, but just more like trying to relax. And I think I was able to swing at better pitches, which, the end result was pretty good. So, I just gotta stay there. Overall it was a great day.”
The record for total bases in a game is 19, by Shawn Green in 2002. Two – Hamilton in 2012 and Joe Adcock in 1954 – had 18 total bases in a game. Then, at 17, come Gil Hodges and Schmidt. And Scooter Gennett.
No Reds player had hit four home runs in the same game.
“It’s surreal, man,” Gennett said. “It really is. I’m truly blessed. Being from here. Born here. Watching all those guys play when I was little. And to do something that’s never been done, I can’t put words on it. But it’s an honor for sure.
“That’s pretty crazy, man. It really is. Especially when you think of a guy like me. Not a huge guy. But that’s baseball, man. It’s not how big or strong you are, it’s how efficient and sometimes lucky.”
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