bashed three homers in a game for the first time in his career. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
For the second time in less than a year and the fifth time this millennium, two players homered three times in a game on the same day. At Wrigley Field, Dioner Navarro homered three times against the White Sox in the Cubs' 9-3 win, while at Camden Yards, Ryan Zimmerman did so in the Nationals' 9-6 loss to the Orioles.
Of the two players, Navarro was by far the less likely to pull off the feat. The 29-year-old is the Cubs' backup catcher, the owner of just 44 career homers in 2,298 major-league plate appearances for five different teams across 10 seasons coming into the day, and three homers in 59 plate appearances this season. It was the first multi-homer game of his major league career; by his own admission, he hadn't even hit two in one game since Little League. In fact, including all 300 players who have at least one three-homer game since 1916, his career .361 slugging percentage is the sixth-lowest, one point lower than George Mitterwald, the last Cubs catcher to perform the feat back on Apr. 17, 1974.
Navarro connected for a solo homer to left-center field off White Sox starter John Danks in the second inning, and a two-run homer off Danks down the left-field line in the fourth. His third, a 405-foot three-run shot to right field off Brian Omogrosso, was his longest of the day. Here's the montage from MLB.com:
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Like Navarro, the 28-year-old Zimmerman began the day with just three home runs this year, but despite hitting 156 at the major-league level over the course of nine seasons, he had never enjoyed a multi-homer game either. All three of his round-trippers came against Orioles starter Chris Tillman: A solo shot to left-center field in the first inning, another one to center in the fourth — that immediately following a Roger Bernadina solo shot — and then a two-run fifth-inning homer to right field that gave the Nats a 6-2 lead that they couldn't hold onto. They surrendered six runs in the seventh inning, two on Chris Davis' second homer of the game and MLB-leading 19th homer of the year. Here's Zimmerman's final homer of the night:
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In this era of inflated home run totals, hitting at least three in a game isn't as rare as you might think. Since the beginning of the 2000 season, players have done so 141 times, with four of those being four-homer efforts. This year, the Red Sox's Will Middlebrooks did so on Apr. 7 against the Blue Jays, while the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera did so on May 19 against the Rangers. The latter was the last player to do so in a loss, but other than him and the Mets' Ike Davis (July 28, 2012), 30 out of the last 32 players with a hat trick or better wound up on the winning team. The last Cub to hit three in a game was Aramis Ramirez on July 20, 2010 against the Astros, while the last National to do so was Adam Dunn against the Padres on July 7 of that same year.
As for pairs of players hitting three on the same day, the first ones of the new millennium were two Brewers teammates, Jeromy Burnitz and Richie Sexson, in the same game against the Diamondbacks on Sept. 25, 2001. Next came the Cubs' Sammy Sosa against the Rockies and the Phillies' Mike Lieberthal against the Dodgers on Aug. 10, 2002. The Cardinals' Albert Pujols and the Indians' Travis Hafner did so against the Cubs and Angels, respectively, on July 20, 2004, and then Pujols and the Phillies' Ryan Howard did so against the Pirates and Braves, respectively, on Sept. 3, 2006. The only pair to do so between that day and Wednesday was the White Sox's Dan Johnson and the Rays' Evan Longoria, who each hit three on October 3, 2012 — the last day of the regular season — against the Indians and Rays.
Despite the big days of Navarro and Zimmerman, home-run rates have fallen ever so slightly this year relative to last year, from 1.015 per team per game to 1.012 (not including Wednesday's action). Both rates are still up from 2010 and 2011, when rates fell below 1.0 per team per game for the first time since 1993, with the high-water mark coming in 2000, when teams hit 1.17 per game.