Last night Lorenzo Cain hit three home runs for the Kansas City Royals, but his team ultimately lost to the New York Yankees 10-7. In his recap of the game for Hardball Talk Craig Calcaterra noted, "I imagine that the winning percentage for teams with guys who hit three homers in a game is pretty high. But it's not 1.000." Obviously this is true given last night's events, but how often does something like this happen?
In MLB history there have been 89 games in which a player hit three home runs and his team failed to get the win. This got me thinking about Cincinnati's involvement in such games. What follows is a brief summary of the five times a Reds player, or opponent, hit three home runs in a game but his team lost.
A Reds player hits 3 home runs, but Cincinnati loses
The first instance of this happening to the Reds came in 1955. On July 21 Cincinnati center fielder Gus Bell launched three home runs in front of 8,036 Phillies fans at Connie Mack Stadium. Unfortunately all three were solo shots, and they were the only runs Cincinnati scored on the day. The Reds actually led the game 3-2 heading in to the bottom of the 8th, but the Phillies loaded the bases with one out. Art Fowler was called on to try and stop the bleeding. He got Andy Seminick to strike out, but Roy Smalley and Marv Blaylock hit back to back singles to drive in runs. Philadelphia scored three in the inning, and Fowler was credited with a blown save.
The Reds bullpen blowing a lead in the 8th? There truly is nothing new under the sun.
There's only one other time in Cincinnati history that a Reds player homered three times but the team lost. On August 12, 1966 Art Shamsky homered three times against the Pirates, but the Reds lost in 13 innings (14-11). What's incredible about this game is that Shamsky wasn't a starter. He didn't even enter the game until the 8th inning.
In the bottom of the 8th Shamsky hit his first home run of the day. It was a 2 run shot that gave Cincinnati an 8-7 lead. However, in the top of the 9th Jerry Lynch hit a solo homer off of Don Nottebart, and the game went into extra innings. It looked like Pittsburgh was on their way to a win following a Willy Stargell homer off of Nottebart in the 10th. However, Shamsky connected for his second home run of the day and the game kept going.
Pittsburgh added two more in the top of the 11th when Bob Bailey doubled home Jim Pagliaroni and Matty Alou. Trailing 11-9 in the bottom of the 11th, was there any chance the Reds could come back again? There was if Art Shamsky was coming to the plate. With two outs Johnny Edwards walked, and up stepped Shamsky. On a 2-1 count he improbably hit his third home run of the day, and the game headed to the 12th inning. The Pirates added two more runs in the top of the 13th, and luckily for them Shamsky wasn't due up again.
Can you imagine Twitter if that game happened today?
A Reds opponent hits 3 home runs, but Cincinnati wins
On this day Boston Braves 3B Les Bell hit three home runs off of Cincinnati pitching, but the Braves were unable to get the win. In fact, the game ended up not even being close. The Reds piled on 20 runs, aided by a 5 run 9th, and won handily 20-12. While Cincinnati didn't have a player hit three home runs, they did accumulate 23 hits. Wally Pipp and Chuck Dressen both racked up four a piece.
The next occurrence of this came in a much more competitive game. Roberto Clemente homered three times for the Pirates, but the Reds held on for an 8-7 win in 10 innings. Actually, Clemente's entire day is worth noting. He went 4-5 with 3 HR, 7 RBI, 3 R, and 1 BB. It's hard to imagine a team losing a game with a player hitting that well, but it happened on this day.
Lee May responded as the Reds most productive hitter. His 3-4 day included a home run and 4 RBI. Clemente's third homer came in the top of the 9th off of Gerry Arrigo. However, with the Pirates leading 7-5 the Reds were able to muster a little 9th inning magic. Pete Rose led off the inning with a ground out, but Tony Perez followed with a walk. May then hit his lone home run to send the game to extra innings. Tony Perez ended the game in the bottom of the 10th when he drove in Rose on a double.
It shouldn't be too surprising to see Barry Bonds on a list like this. On this day at Candlestick Park, Davey Johnson led the Reds into a game against Dusty Baker's San Francisco Giants. With the Giants trailing 3-0 early, Bonds hit a two run home run off of Pete Schourek in the bottom of the third. Later in the 5th, he connected for another homer off of Schourek to tie the game at 4-4.
Cincinnati seemed to take a commanding lead when they rang up four runs in the top of the 7th to make the score 8-4. Tony Fernandez, Brett Boone, and Reggie Sanders all played a role in getting those runs home. The Giants kept chipping away though. They added two in the bottom of the 7th on TWO Hector Carrasco wild pitches, but a Barry Larkin solo shot in the 8th gave Cincinnati an insurance run. Bonds hit his third homer of the day in the 9th off of Carassco, but the Giants couldn't muster any more offense.