Ranking MLB’s Greatest Single-Game Offensive Explosions of the Last 10 Years

0 of 10Albert Pujols’ three-homer game wasn’t even the most memorable performance of the 2011 World Series.Eric Gay/Associated PressHitting a baseball is generally regarded as the hardest thing to do in sports. But every now and then, there are games in which an individual hitter makes it look all too easy.With the 2020 season on…

Ranking MLB’s Greatest Single-Game Offensive Explosions of the Last 10 Years

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    Albert Pujols' three-homer game wasn't even the most memorable performance of the 2011 World Series.

    Albert Pujols’ three-homer game wasn’t even the most memorable performance of the 2011 World Series.Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Hitting a baseball is generally regarded as the hardest thing to do in sports. But every now and then, there are games in which an individual hitter makes it look all too easy.

    With the 2020 season on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic, we thought we’d look back at the 10 most extreme examples from the last decade of Major League Baseball.

    Whereas there’s “game score” for pitchers, there is no all-encompassing stat for dominant single-game offensive performances for hitters. Because of that, we had to size up memorable offensive outbursts from the 2010s on their historical significance and general impact.

    To keep things interesting, we also emphasized variety to a certain extent. And we stipulated that these great games had to include more than just one big hit. That, perhaps, is a list for another time.

    We decided on five showings from the regular season and five from the postseason, and they are ranked from least great to greatest.

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    In the regular season, it’s actually not that uncommon for a batter to hit for the cycle. It’s happened 280 times since 1904, including 38 times in the 2010s alone.

    A cycle in the postseason, however, is something that didn’t happen until Brock Holt did the honors in 2018.

    Playing as a member of the Boston Red Sox, Holt achieved his historic cycle in Game 3 of an American League Division Series against the New York Yankees. After grounding out in his first at-bat, he singled and tripled in the fourth inning, hit a ground-rule double in the eighth and then smacked a solo home run in the ninth.

    In addition to the only cycle in postseason history, Holt also notched one of 17 playoff games of at least five runs batted in during the 2010s. By his own words, it’s a game he’ll remember for “a long, long time.”

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    With all respect to Holt’s history-making cycle in the postseason, the most memorable cycle of the 2010s was Nolan Arenado’s from 2017.

    For one, it was Father’s Day when Arenado led the Colorado Rockies over the San Francisco Giants on June 18. For two, he capped it in style with a walk-off three-run homer in the ninth inning.

    Per the Elias Sports Bureau (via Thomas Harding of MLB.com), Arenado was not the first player to finish off a cycle with a walk-off home run. In fact, fellow Rockie Carlos Gonzalez had done it just seven years earlier.

    However, Arenado was (and still is) the first batter to complete a cycle with a walk-off homer with his team trailing. Largely because of that, his cycle is one of the top 10 all-time in terms of win probability added.

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    If it’s rarity you want, nothing beats a seven-hit game. That’s been done only five times, including by only one player in the last 45 years: Brandon Crawford.

    Crawford’s hepta-hit opus happened Aug. 8, 2016, when he and the Giants were up against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. After 14 innings, he had five singles, a double and a triple.

    Granted, Crawford would not have been able to get to seven hits without extra innings. But the game wouldn’t have lasted that long or been a triumph for the Giants without him, as he was responsible for both tying and go-ahead hits in the eighth and 14th innings, respectively.

    Altogether, Crawford’s seven hits earned him the highest single-game WPA for a regular-season contest during the 2010s.

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    Anthony Rendon will never have another year like 2019. He was an All-Star and a World Series champion on the field, and he added to the celebration by signing a $245 million contract.

    But if it’s a question of which single game Rendon will never repeat, we must go back to when he and the Washington Nationals faced off against the New York Mets on April 30, 2017.

    The Nats rolled to a 23-5 victory largely because of Rendon’s stick. It produced six hits, including three home runs. He also drove in 10 runs.

    Have there been players with six hits, three home runs or 10 RBI before? Sure, and plenty of them. But before Rendon, the only batter to hit all three marks in one game was Walker Cooper in 1949. Unsurprisingly, they’re still the only members of that club.

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    Elsewhere on the topic of three-homer games, that’s a rare accomplishment come October. It’s been done only 11 times by 10 different players.

    The most recent member of that club is also perhaps the most unexpected: Enrique Hernandez.

    His job for the 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers primarily involved playing defense. But because he hit 10 of his 11 home runs against left-handers, it’s little wonder he was in the lineup against Chicago Cubs southpaw Jose Quintana for Game 5 of the National League Championship Series.

    Hernandez made good with a solo blast off him in the second, and he tacked on a grand slam off Hector Rondon in the third and a two-run homer off Mike Montgomery in the ninth. Thus did he achieve the only three-homer, seven-RBI game in playoff history—and help put the Dodgers in the World Series.

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    Hitting three homers in a postseason game is one thing. Doing it in a World Series game is something else entirely.

    That’s been done only five times by four different players, and the most recent of those is also one of only two instances of a player compiling three homers and four hits in a World Series game: Pablo Sandoval against the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 of the 2012 Fall Classic.

    To boot, Sandoval hit two of his three bombs off reigning AL Cy Young Award winner and MVP Justin Verlander. And unlike the other three-homer games in World Series history, he gathered his in consecutive at-bats right out of the gate.

    “It’s an unforgettable feat for me and those around me,” Sandoval said. “After the last one, when I stepped on second base I said, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I hit three home runs in the World Series.”

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    As much as we enjoy the highlights of J.D. Martinez’s four-homer game in 2017, such games aren’t that rare, and his wasn’t the most historically significant one of the 2010s.

    Instead, that honor arguably belongs to Scooter Gennett.

    Going into the Cincinnati Reds’ tilt with the St. Louis Cardinals on June 6, 2017, Gennett had hit only three home runs all season. It was no small surprise, then, when he took Adam Wainwright yard for a grand slam in the third—and promptly launched three more dingers.

    What’s more, Gennett also drove in 10 runs. In so doing, he joined former Cardinal Mark Whiten as the only two players to rack up as many as four homers and 10 RBI in a game.

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    Instead of Gennett, there’s an argument that the most historically significant four-homer game of the decade was actually achieved by Josh Hamilton five years earlier.

    With 10 homers through his first 26 games, Hamilton was already off to a scorching start when he and the Texas Rangers met the Baltimore Orioles on May 8, 2012. Nonetheless, he upgraded himself to surface-of-the-sun hot by going 5-for-5 with four home runs and eight RBI.

    Hamilton’s first two shots were off future National League Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta. And while everyone rightfully remembers the home runs, he also snuck in a double in the fifth inning.

    For anyone scoring at home, that’s 18 total bases. Hamilton and Joe Adcock are the only two hitters to stop at that number, while Shawn Green is the only one to surpass it.

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    In any other World Series, Albert Pujols‘ performance in Game 3 of the 2011 Fall Classic would stand as the absolute peak.

    Despite his three NL MVP awards and already lengthy history of postseason heroics, Pujols was actually a background character for the Cardinals at the outset of Game 3. His first three at-bats yielded only a groundout and two singles.

    After that, however, came three straight home runs off Alexi Ogando, Mike Gonzalez and Darren Oliver. Like that, Pujols had gone 5-for-6 with three homers, six RBI and 14 total bases. The last of those figures was and still is a record for a World Series game.

    It’s pretty special,” Pujols told reporters. “To do it at that level and on this stage is amazing.”

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    Technically speaking, World Series hitting performances don’t get any more dominant than what Pujols did.

    But as David Freese can vouch, they do get more clutch.

    Though Freese had only two hits in Game 6 of the ’11 Fall Classic, he famously made them count. The first was a game-tying triple with two outs in the ninth inning. Following clutch knocks by Hamilton (two-run homer) and Lance Berkman (two-run single) in the 10th inning, Freese’s second big hit was a walk-off blast in the 11th that forced Game 7.

    Per win probability added, Freese’s legendary rescue job is the most clutch performance in World Series history. That, in turn, qualifies it as arguably the most clutch performance in any game—ever.

    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.