Jackson Merrill Makes Willie Mays Type of History With Home Run Spree

The Padres' rookie sensation is currently on fire.
Jun 20, 2024; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego Padres center fielder Jackson Merrill (3) looks on after striking out to end the third inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 20, 2024; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego Padres center fielder Jackson Merrill (3) looks on after striking out to end the third inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports / Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
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Jackson Merrill has put himself in some elite company with his play lately. Only the late, great Willie Mays can match the roll he's currently on.

When Merrill launched a first inning home run Thursday night, he matched a feat Mays accomplished nearly 73 years ago. It was the San Diego Padres rookie's sixth home run in eight games. In MLB history, only one other player 21 years old or younger has blasted six homers in an eight-game span while playing center field. Mays did it from July 15-22 in 1951.

Merrill has been having a phenomenal first season in the big leagues. Among qualified rookies, he's currently first in hits (70) and home runs (nine), second in RBIs (31), third in batting average (.279), runs (33) and fWAR (1.8), eighth in slugging (.426), OPS (.742) and wRC+ (114), and fifth in stolen bases (nine). And he's doing all of that while playing a new position this season. While those numbers are good, Merrill has been on an absolute tear over the past two weeks.

In the past 15 games, Merrill is slashing .321/.357/.736 with an OPS of 1.093, 17 hits in 53 at-bats, four doubles, six home runs and nine RBIs. He's looking like he did as an uber-confident prospect who was great at every level in the minor leagues.

Merrill had never played above Double-A before this season. On Opening Day, he became the fourth-youngest MLB starting center fielder since 1969. He has risen to the occasion and is now making history.


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Ryan Phillips

RYAN PHILLIPS

Ryan Phillips is a senior writer on the Breaking and Trending News team at Sports Illustrated. He has worked in digital media since 2009, spending eight years at The Big Lead before joining SI in 2024. Phillips also co-hosts The Assembly Call Podcast about Indiana Hoosiers basketball and previously worked at Bleacher Report. He is a proud San Diego native and a graduate of Indiana University’s journalism program.