Back-to-back home runs are always exciting. And lucky fans sometimes get to see back-to-back-to-back homers.
On Sunday, at almost-empty Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, the White Sox blasted back-to-back-to-back-to-back shots in the fifth inning. All four came off Cardinals reliever Roel Ramirez, a 25-year-old right-hander who was making his major league debut.
The feat of four consecutive homers did not occur in the major leagues until 1961, when the Milwaukee Braves did it in a game against the Cincinnati Reds. The Indians were the second team to pull it off, in 1963, and the Twins did so in 1964, making it seem like it might become a relatively regular achievement.
But the flow stopped, and no team blasted four straight again until the turn of the century.
Our home run-happy era has been a boon to back-to-back-to-back-to-backers; the Dodgers resurrected the feat in 2006, and it had happened five more times before Sunday.
The White Sox became the second team to do it twice, having achieved the feat in 2008. The other team to do it twice is the Nationals, who socked four in a row in 2017 and 2019; oddly enough, no player was involved both times.
Just one player has been part of four-homer string twice. J.D. Drew hit the second home run for the Dodgers in September 2006, and after leaving as a free agent, he did it again for the Red Sox barely a few games later in April 2007. His brother Stephen Drew was also part of a back-to-back-to-back-to-back run, hitting the fourth homer for the Diamondbacks in 2010.
The most star-studded streak may have been the first, when Eddie Mathews (512 career homers), Hank Aaron (755, of course), Joe Adcock (336) and Frank Thomas (286) went yard without interruption. It would have been a record-setting five straight if a young rookie named Joe Torre could have lifted one over the fence. Instead, he grounded out to third. (Torre, of course, went on to become a nine-time All-Star and a Hall of Fame manager.)
Sunday was a terrible debut for Ramirez even before the string of long balls. He struck out the first batter in the fifth inning, then gave up two singles. A runner was caught stealing, giving him hopes of getting out of his first major league inning, but he followed it with a walk.
Then the homers started.
Yoan Moncada hit a three-run shot to right, and Yasmani Grandal followed. Jose Abreu and Eloy Jimenez hit theirs to left field. After homer No. 4, Ramirez was finally yanked.
Ramirez was 6-3 with a 4.78 earned run average last year in Class AA and AAA. His career E.R.A. in the majors stands for now at 81.00.
The White Sox did not waste the dingers, beating the Cardinals, 7-2.
More home runs over all would naturally lead to more streaks of consecutive home runs, which is why the back-to-back-to-back-to-backer isn’t such an extreme rarity anymore. Major leaguers hit 6,776 homers last year, breaking the previous record by more than 600.
Four home runs in a row is still pretty remarkable. But five in a row would be more so.
How close did we come to a record-setting fifth on Sunday? Edwin Encarnacion, with 416 career home runs, stepped to the plate against the new pitcher, Seth Elledge, with a chance to go where no one had gone before. He struck out looking.