Thursday, May 12, 2016

Have any Braves Pitchers Hit Two Homers in the Same Game?

With Noah Syndergaard hitting two homeruns last night for the Mets, it got me thinking. It's time to play fun with Baseball Play Index and track down the six instances since 1913 where a Braves pitcher has accomplished the same feat.

Jim Tobin - 5/13/42 - Chicago Cubs @ Boston Braves

Maybe the most interesting of the six times a Braves pitcher has hit two homeruns in a game if only because Tobin actually hit three. Tobin's career on the mound isn't very memorable. He lost more games than he won over his nine-year career, went to one All-Star Game, and generally did little to make people remember his ability as a pitcher. But as a hitter? He was the Micah Owings of his time. In fact, in 1943, he even played a game at first base, though that was likely out of necessity rather than to find a way to get his bat into the lineup. He hit 17 homeruns over his career and had a respectable (for a pitcher) .115 ISO. He would hit six dingers in 1942 alone - half of which came in a game against the Cubs nearly 74 years ago. His solo shot in the fifth tied the score at 2-2. After the Cubs retook the lead off Tobin, the Braves got a pair of solo bombs off the bats of Eddie Miller and Tobin to again even the score. In the 8th, with the score still tied, Tobin hammered a two-run shot to put the Braves on top for good as they won 6-5 behind Tobin's complete game and 12 total bases. He is the only pitcher of the modern era to homer three times in one game.

Lew Burdette, Baseball Digest 1954
via Wikipedia
Lew Burdette - 8/13/57 - Milwaukee Braves @ Cincinnati Reds

A lot of things went right with the 1957 Braves and in Cincinnati, the quite solid Burdette helped himself out to a great game with the bat. While superstars Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron went 1-for-9, Burdette singled and homered twice. He also added a walk. Unlike Tobin, Burdette had never shown power with his bat. His third-inning blast off Joe Nuxhall was the first of his career. He would get Nuxhall again in the sixth - this time with two runners on after an intentional walk to Wes Covington. The Reds switched pitchers, bringing in Hersh Freeman, though Red Schoendienst would welcome the new pitcher with a homer of his own, giving Milwaukee back-to-back jacks. They would take control of the game with the four-run frame, which broke a 4-4 tie. Milwaukee later pushed the lead to 12-4 and Burdette finished the game.

Lew Burdette - 7/10/58 - Milwaukee Braves @ Los Angeles Dodgers

Nearly a year after his first two-homer game, Burdette did the trick a second time. In the fourth inning of a scoreless game with Johnny Podres on the mound for the Dodgers, Milwaukee loaded the bases on a single, double, and an intentional pass. With the count 1-2, Burdette stunned the Los Angeles Coliseum crowd with a Grand Slam, his first homerun since tagging Nuxhall the previous August. Four innings later, with the score 5-3, Burdette sent a screamer beyond the outfield wall against Ed Roebuck. Burdette would pick up another complete game victory as the Braves eventually pulled away 8-4. As an aside, Burdette's next homerun was a three-run bomb later in 1958 off Sandy Koufax. He would also homer off Koufax in 1961, making the Hall of Fame lefty the only other pitcher aside from Nuxhall that Burdette homered twice off.

Cloninger, Baseball Digest, via Wikipedia
Tony Cloninger - 6/16/66 - New York Mets @ Atlanta Braves

Cloninger only had an OPS over .600 once - 1966. In the franchise's first year in Atlanta, Cloninger enjoyed the new gigs more at the plate than he did on the mound (he led the NL in walks and wild pitches that year). The Braves especially enjoyed a mid-June game against the visiting Mets. In the third inning with the Braves already up 3-0, the first six batters of the inning reached with the help of a walk and five singles. That brought Cloninger up with Mack Jones and Felix Millan on. Dave Eilers, who had replaced Rob Gardner earlier in the inning, was looking for his first out of the frame. It didn't come against Cloninger, who hit a homer to give the Braves a 10-0 lead. Cloninger would step up again in the sixth after a Millan single had scored a run. The Tarheel hit his second moonshot of the game to put the Braves up 15-1. They would cruise to a 17-1 shellacking.

Tony Cloninger - 7/3/66 - Atlanta Braves @ San Francisco Giants

A few weeks later, Cloninger would be at it again. With the Braves up 2-0 in the first and Joe Gibbon already removed for Bob Priddy, Cloninger stepped in with the bases loaded. He did not disappoint, smacking a Grand Slam. His day wasn't even close to being over. Flash forward to the fourth. Ray Sadecki had relieved Priddy to end the previous inning and had two-on and two out and a runner already in. However, he walked Denis Menke, which set the stage for Cloninger. The right-handed hitter crushed his second Grand Slam of the day. Later in the game, Cloninger added a ninth RBI when he singled in a run. The nine ribbies matched his season total entering the game.

To put this game in historical context - since 1913, only five other pitchers have had a pair of two-homerun games in the same season. To further the point, only 12 other players in history have ever hit two Grand Slams in the same game. Cloninger is the only guy to be on both lists. Oh, and he also threw a complete game in the 17-3 win.

Derek Lilliquist - 5/1/90 - New York Mets @ Atlanta Braves

The lefty Lilliquist would find his best success in the majors as a reliever, but in 1990, the hapless Braves needed him to start. On the first of May, the Davey Johnson-led Mets came into town with Ron Darling on the mound. With the Braves up 1-0 on a leadoff Oddibe McDowell dinger, Lilliquist opened the third with a homer of his own. It was the first of his career. His second and last homerun would come leading off the fifth. Another solo shot off Darling, it increased Atlanta's lead to 4-0 on the heels of four solo homeruns. The Mets would get a pair of solo shots of their own from Kevin Elster and Howard Johnson, but Lilliquist would score an insurance run in the 7th after reaching on a fielder's choice. Lilliquist would be lifted the following inning, making him the only player on this list who didn't also toss a complete game.

To put a bow on this, Atlanta Braves pitchers have given up four two-homerun games to pitchers. Bucky Walters (1945), Ben Wade (1952), Don Drysdale (1958), and previously mentioned Micah Owings in 2007. Owings had a four-hit game and finished a triple short of the cycle.

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