The first month of the MLB season certainly made its mark on the history books, including the 21st perfect game thrown in major league history by Chicago White Sox pitcher Philip Humber. However, the entire year may be brought back to this past week when MLB fans are discussing the best single-game hitting performances of the season.
One of those players, Texas Rangers center Josh Hamilton, will remain baseball’s biggest topic of conversation if he continues to perform as well as he has in his first 33 games of the season.
Hamilton does not only lead all three Triple Crown categories in the American League, but leads them all by a significant margin. Hamilton’s .400 batting average is .033 points better than anyone else, his 18 home runs are six more than anyone else has and he has a lead of 15 in runs batted in with 44.
While Hamilton is seriously unlikely to continue hitting at this pace, he is a serious Triple Crown threat if he stays healthy. The game that propelled him to such a commanding lead came on May 8 versus the Baltimore Orioles.
On that night, Hamilton had a performance so tremendous that it prompted ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian (via ESPN VP Josh Krulewitz) to call it “the best night of any player in the history of the American League.” In five total plate appearances, Hamilton hit four home runs and a double.
This was only the 16th game ever in which a player has hit four home runs, but even more impressive was the fact that he got a hit in every single plate appearance, including a double, for 18 total bases, the second-most in MLB history. Hamilton also had eight RBI in the game.
Some baseball purists rave about “the cycle,” but Hamilton’s achievement dwarfed the cycle. Hamilton got the home run and double, but instead of a single and a triple, he added three additional home runs. Even when Hamilton had already hit three home runs and a double, the Orioles could not find a way to keep him from hitting another one over the fence.
Hamilton’s game was no fluke. In the four games following that game, Hamilton hit four home runs and had five total RBI. Hamilton is also currently in the midst of a 14-game hit streak.
Making this week of baseball even more incredible is that Hamilton’s game was arguably not even the best single-game hitting performance of the week. On Sunday, May 13, Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto made his own mark with a tremendous game versus the Washington Nationals.
Votto did not come into his historic game with the momentum that Hamilton did. He signed a 10-year, $225 million contract prior to the start of the season but came into Sunday’s game with a .296 batting average and only two home runs and 18 RBI on the season.
Votto finally proved why he was worth the big contract on Sunday. Statistically, Votto came up one short of Hamilton, going 4-for-5 with three home runs and a double. However, it was the significance of his final at bat that made his performance especially historic.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, the Reds were trailing by one run with two outs. But following a Chris Heisey walk, the bases were loaded as Votto stepped up to the plate. The rest is history: Votto hit his third home run of the game—a walk-off grand slam for a Reds victory.
In doing so, Votto became the first player to hit three home runs in a game including a walk-off grand slam. His game will not soon be forgotten by baseball statisticians or Reds fanatics.
While Hamilton manufactured a dominant 10-3 victory over the Orioles with his 4-HR performance, Votto’s biggest moment came with the game on the line.
While a 2-HR and three-hit game remains impressive, it would have soon been forgotten had Votto recorded the last out of the game for a Nationals win. By hitting the grand slam, Votto capped off a remarkable game with one swing of the bat, leading his Reds, who currently stand 1.5 games back in the NL Central, to an important victory.
Hamilton’s game was better statistically, but the clutch factor of Votto’s grand slam makes it a very difficult choice in deciding which performance was better. Which performance do you think was better? Have your say by voting in the poll and commenting below!
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