When I was a wee lad, one of the games I played on my family’s Nintendo 64 was Ken Griffey Jr.’s Slugfest, which might be the greatest bad baseball game of all time. One day, my older brother showed me a cheat code that would allow Ken Griffey Jr. to hit a home run no matter the pitch or how badly you swung.
Of course, as a young, naïve child, I only thought this was possible in video games. There was no way someone could just launch homers at will in real life like that.
Max Kepler just turned real life into a video game, and Trevor Bauer was the unfortunate (for him) victim.
Over two games of June 6 and July 13, Kepler homered in five straight at-bats against Bauer before the Cleveland Indians pitcher struck him out in the fourth inning of Saturday’s game.
Five home runs. In just five at-bats. Against the same pitcher.
This feat is astronomically rare. Only two other players have done it in MLB history (Carlos Delgado vs. Jorge Sosa in 2003-04, and Frank Howard vs. Bob Hendley in 1963-64), and Kepler is the only player to do it in a single season.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an officially licensed video that edited all five bombs together, so we’ll just have to make do with two videos.
If you watched the first video, you probably caught the fun factoid that Kepler had come into the game in a bit of a slump, recording zero hits over his 21 at-bats. The likelihood of a player hitting three home runs in the same game against the same pitcher are already low even in the best of circumstances. Add being in the middle of a slump, and you have better odds of surviving an asteroid field while pursued by TIE fighters. But Kepler pulled a Han Solo on his way to pulling a trio of Bauer pitches over the fence.
The second round of homers didn’t come with the same backstory—primarily, Kepler wasn’t coming off a slump—but that didn’t make it any less impressive. On the third pitch of the game, Kepler sent an inside 94-mph fastball that was just a tad too high in the zone into the right-centerfield bleachers. In the next at-bat, Bauer served up a meatball on a platter with a hanging curveball, and Kepler happily bon appetit’d the pitch for his fifth home run and final home run.
What was Bauer’s response after that last home run?
It’s hard to feel bad for Bauer, because, well, you know, but as a Giants fan, I can sympathize. We have seen our fair share of monster sluggers owning Giants pitching. Paul Goldschmidt and Tim Lincecum. Kiké Hernandez and Madison Bumgarner. Nolan Arenado and the entire pitching staff.
But at least none of them gave up five home runs in five at-bats to the same hitter.
But the biggest surprise of all might have come after the game. As expected, Bauer took to Twitter to comment on the event, and he was…funny?
It’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish. I think. Maybe. pic.twitter.com/Y94Ni2cpDp— Trevor Bauer (@BauerOutage) July 14, 2019
Well played, Bauer. Well played.