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The Strike Zone

Domonic Brown barely misses cycle but continues home run binge

(H. Rumph Jr/AP)Domonic Brown has gone on a tear lately, blasting eight dingers in his last nine games. (H. Rumph Jr/AP)

Not a whole lot has gone right for the Philadelphia Phillies this year, but one thing that definitely has is the play of Domonic Brown. Facing the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday, the 25-year-old left fielder came within a double of hitting for the cycle, but in his final plate appearance he did something almost as rare — for him, at least: draw an unintentional walk.

Brown has been on a rampage lately, bashing eight homers in his last nine games and taking over the National League lead with 16. He completed the month of May with 12 homers but without a single walk, making for a lopsided but potent .303/.303/.688 line.

According to the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index, Brown is the first player to hit more than eight homers in a month without drawing a walk. Here are the six players with at least seven homers and no walks in a month:

Player TeamSplit Year HR PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
Domonic BrownPhilliesMay20131228109.303.303.688991
Ernie BanksCubsAugust1968830124.215.228.479707
Tony ArmasAngelsAugust198882484.386.381.7351116
Miguel OlivoRoyalsJune200982580.295.313.6921005
Wally PostRedsApril195671149.271.286.708.994
Kevin MenchRangersApril200672082.342.354.6711025

Brown's dozen was the most by a player in any month since Jose Bautista hit 14 for the Toronto Blue Jays last June. And the most by a Phillies player since Cy Williams hit 15 in May 1923.

On Sunday, Brown extended his show of force into June, clouting a three-run homer in the first inning and then hitting an RBI triple in the second. Both blows came against Brewers starter Mike Fiers. The first highlighted a five-run inning. The second ran the score to 7-0 and ended Fiers' day after just 49 pitches. Here's the home run:

Brown singled off reliever Alfredo Figaro to lead off the fifth, but with the Phillies offense unable to push across any more runs, he got just one more plate appearance. Facing reliever Tom Gorzelanny in the seventh, he worked a six-pitch walk — his first since April 30, when he drew a pass from Cleveland's Zach McAllister.

Brown actually walked nine times in April, though his .233/.309/.372 line for the month, with three homers, wasn't much to write home about, particularly given its striking similarity to last year's .236/.316/.396 performance in 212 plate appearance. Overall he has walked in just 4.0 percent of his plate appearances, a rate that won't be easily overlooked if balls off his bat stop flying out of the yard.

Even with the lack of walks, it's been a nice breakout for Brown. He ranked 15th on Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list prior to the 2010 season and fourth prior to the 2011 one, but struggled to establish a foothold at the major league level amid injuries and a fair bit of yo-yoing between Triple-A Lehigh and the majors. Recalled in late July 2010, he started nine times in his first two weeks while Shane Victorino hit the disabled list, but just four times over the final seven weeks. He finished with a .210/.257/.355 line in 70 plate appearances, a waste of development time given the need for refinements in his game. After missing most of April 2011 with a hamate fracture that required surgery, he played 56 games in the majors in 2011, hitting .245/.333/.391 with five homers in 210 PAs. But the deadline acquisition of Hunter Pence forced him back to the minors. Then, after a .227/.374/.299 showing in 30 games at Triple-A, he was limited to one plate appearance upon being recalled in September.

The presence of Pence kept Brown in the minors for the first four months of 2012 as well. Only when Pence was traded to the Giants did Brown get another shot. And when he did, his low batting average obscured his .160 isolated power and his 8.9 percent unintentional walk rate.

With John Mayberry Jr. falling out of favor after a lackluster 2012 and Delmon Young starting the year on the disabled list, Brown finally broke camp with a starting job, this time in left field instead of right. At this point, he leads the team in homers, RBIs (36), total bases (108) and slugging percentage (.543). And despite the lack of walks, his OBP (.321) is fourth among the 10 Phillies with at least 90 PAs, conspicuously ahead of Ryan Howard (.291) and Young (.279).

Brown's outburst hasn't been enough to keep his team afloat on a daily basis. They're 4-5 during their last nine games (4-2 when he's homered, 0-3 when he hasn't) and 27-30 on the season. As well as third in the NL East, 7 1/2 out of first and eight out of a wild-card slot. Still, he's the rare thing that's gone right for the Phillies (see: ump ending a rally), and until the homers dry up, what's a few walks here and there?

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