Lorenzo Cain had quite the night on Tuesday. With the Royals playing in New York, he went 3-5 with 3 HR, 5 RBI, and 3 R. However, that production wasn’t enough to get Kansas City the win, and the Yankees used a 3-run 8th to pull ahead 10-7. In his recap of Tuesday’s affair Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk 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….”

On this point Calcaterra is correct. In fact there have been 89 such games in which a player has hit at least three home runs but his team failed to pick up the win. Looking at this list, there are actually a number of interesting things worth notice. What follows is some of the more noteworthy instances of a player hitting at least three home runs in a loss.

The King of 3-Home-Run Games in Which His Team Lost

I’m sure Lorenzo Cain was frustrated to hit three home runs in a game that his team ultimately lost. A handful of players have felt this sting of disappointment more than once. However, Johnny Mize stands alone as king of this category. Four times in his fifteen-year career he hit at least three homers only to have his team lose.

The first instance came in 1938. Mize was playing first for the St. Louis Cardinals, and they lost 10-5 to the Boston Braves. The second occurrence took place on September 8, 1940. Once again Mize’s Cardinals couldn’t capitalize on his production, and they lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates 16-14. Next, Mize hit three home runs in a loss as a member of the New York Giants on April 24, 1947. The final time occurred on September 15, 1950 when Mize’s Yankees were knocked off in Detroit by the Tigers.

Longest Span Between Hitting Three Home Runs In a Loss

Once again the distinction belongs to Mize. His seven-year span in between accomplishing this stands alone (1940 to 1947).

Shortest Span Between Hitting Three Home Runs in a Loss

In 2001 Sammy Sosa pulled this off twice in the span of a month and a half. On August 9 his Cubs fell to the Rockies 14-5, and on September 23 the Astros won a much closer 6-7 contest. Apparently in 2001 three Sosa homers didn’t guarantee much. It probably didn’t help that Julian Tavarez and Jon Lieber started those games for Chicago.

Three Home Runs in the Most Lopsided Loss

Three times in baseball history a player hit three home runs in a game only to see his team lose by 9 runs. Two of these instances were already mentioned: Johnny Mize and Sammy Sosa both homered three times in nine-run losses. So who got to join this exclusive club? Billy Terry of the New York Giants felt this special kind of pain on August 13, 1932. On that day the Brooklyn Dodgers racked up 24 hits en route to an 18-9 win.

Which teams have had the most 3-home-run hitters in a loss?

If there’s a record involving interesting ways to lose, it’s likely that the Chicago Cubs will be near the top of that list. In fact, as a team they are the kings of losing games in which one of their players hit three home runs in a game. Amazingly, they have had this happen 11 times! These players are:

  • Ernie Banks (x2)
  • Tuffy Rhodes
  • Moises Alous
  • Andy Pafko
  • Sammy Sosa (x2)
  • Hank Leiber
  • Dave Kingman (x2)
  • Clyde McCullough

Which team has overcome a player hitting three home runs the most?

Six times in the history of Cleveland Indians baseball an opposing player has hit three home runs in a game. Joe Carter, Mickey Brantley, Mike Stanley, Steve Boros, Rocky Colavito, and Carlos Pena all know the joy of hitting three home runs in a game. However, they also know the agony of that not being enough when facing Cleveland.

Three home runs in a loss from the worst spot in the batting order

Just once has this feat been pulled off from the #9 spot in a batting lineup. Art Shamsky of the Cincinnati Reds hit three home runs in a game on August 12, 1966. Ultimately, the Reds would lose that game 14-11 to the Pirates. There’s something else of interest to note here: Shamsky was batting ninth because he replaced Reds pitcher Joe Nuxhall in the 8th. That’s right, Shamsky hit three home runs in a game that he didn’t even enter until the 8th inning!

Three home runs and a negative win probability?

This has less to do with the specific record that we’re talking about, and more to do with a surprising fact I discovered while looking at the play index. There are two players on this list who hit at least three home runs in a game and left with a negative “win probability added” total. So who were they and how did they do it?

On May 17, 1979 Dave Kingman pulled this off for the Cubs against the Phillies. How could he be so productive, but eventually be a detriment to his team? One of the top five plays in the game was a double play that Kingman hit into in the bottom of the 5th.

Johnny Callison is the other contributor to this list. On September 27, 1964 he hit three home runs against the Milwaukee Braves. However, he ultimately hurt Philadelphia’s chances to win more than he helped. He ended the game 3-5, but those two outs came when the outcome was still in doubt. By the time Callison started hitting long balls the Braves had already put the game well out of reach.

 

Lorenzo Cain’s odd Tuesday night got me thinking about this odd kind of game. Now you know more about them then you probably ever wanted to.

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One Response to “A Brief History of 3-Home-Run Games in a Loss”

  1. David Reason

    A pal of mine and I share a question. Judging by the material you post, you might have a way of researching this.

    You have, I am sure, heard the old adage, “There are 3 aspects to baseball: good pitching, good hitting, and the 3 run home run”.
    We wonder this – what is the probability of winning when a team hits a 3 run home run? We expect it is something like 80%, but it would be fun to know. Thanks!!

    Reply

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