Sunday’s contest between the Nationals and Padres was a tight one. Stephen Strasburg threw seven innings of one run ball while the Luis Perdomo and the Padres bullpen held pace. The game was tied at one going into the eighth inning, and Nationals manager Dave Martinez pinch hit Howie Kendrick for Strasburg. It was a risky move since Strasburg was pitching so well, but the gambit paid off as Kendrick broke the tie with home run. Then, Trea Turner added an insurance run with another home run. After that, Adam Eaton just made the Padres feel bad with a third homer in a row. Finally, Anthony Rendon jumped in because he “[didn’t] want to be the one who doesn’t hit one.”
The Nationals hit back-to-back-to-back-to-back homers on Sunday, making them the first team to do so since 2017. The team that did it then? The Nationals. That makes them the first team to hit four homers in a row twice. In all of baseball history. This counts teams relocating and changing names, too.
Saying that the Nationals are the first team to perform the feat twice implies that most teams have done it at least once, but the opposite is true. Most teams haven’t hit back-to-back-to-back-to-back homers. Retrosheet has a list of every occurrence of back-to-back-to-back-to-back homers, and there have only been nine instances of this happening. All of them have come since 1961, and no, the Giants have never done it. Here are the teams that have.
- Milwaukee Braves
- Cleveland Indians
- Minnesota Twins
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Boston Red Sox
- Chicago White Sox
- Arizona Diamondbacks
- Washington Nationals
After Sunday, the Padres have now given up four homers in a row twice which would be an extremely Padres fun fact if the Brewers hadn’t also given up two unique stretches of long balls.
What’s interesting to me is that the nine occurrences have all happened in three distinct bunches. We went through all of baseball history until the Milwaukee Braves hit four in a row in 1961. Then it happened two more times in 1963 and 1964. Suddenly, something that had never happened before looked to be about as common as a guy hitting for the cycle, but then it didn’t happen again for 42 years. Then there was one in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2010. Now, we appear to be in another, Nationals-exclusive bunch.
With as lively as the ball has been this year, it perhaps isn’t immediately surprising that a team hit four homers in a row, but even with homers at an all time high, home runs only occur in 3.5 percent of plate appearances. Selecting hitters and pitchers at random, that would mean that a back-to-back-to-back-to-back stretch would have a 0.0000015 percent chance of occurring.
If history repeats itself, we might see this happen again next year and wait a decade or another 40 years. What the Nationals did on Sunday isn’t like a player hitting for the cycle, it’s more like a seeing a comet or an eclipse. Baseball is filled with all sorts of randomness and chaos. Not all of it is good, but this was special.