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June 14, 2013

BP Unfiltered

Gonzalez Germen and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Inning

by Ben Lindbergh

Last night in Las Vegas, Mets top prospect Zack Wheeler made his final Triple-A tune-up before his big-league debut. It was a good one. Pitching against the Tacoma Rainiers, Wheeler went 5 2/3 innings, allowing one hit—a home run by Carlos Peguero—two walks, and striking out seven. The Rainiers’ starter, Erasmo Ramirez, was even better, going eight scoreless with seven strikeouts and no walks. And this was in Cashman Field, one of the best offensive environments in Minor League Baseball, where 2.22 home runs were hit per game from 2010-12—more than in any other PCL park except Albuquerque. As a team, the 51s have slugged over 50 points higher at home this season.

So for several innings, this was pitching prospect porn. When Wheeler was removed, lefty reliever Jack Leathersich took over with two down in the sixth and got three outs, keeping the game close. And then, with two outs in the seventh, a runner on third, and right-handed hitter Rich Poythress coming to the plate, 51s manager Wally Backman went to righty reliever Gonzalez Germen. The pitcher’s duel was about to become a blowout.

Germen, a 25-year-old Dominican, entered the game with a 4.84 ERA but pretty good peripherals: 9.9 strikeouts per nine, 2.3 walks per nine, and 0.8 home runs per nine, perfectly respectable stats considering his home park. They look less respectable now. Germen walked Poythress and allowed a double to Nate Tenbrink and and a triple to Brandon Bantz before getting Robert Andino to ground out for the final out of the seventh. Now it was 4-0 Tacoma.

Germen came back out to start the eighth, and then things got really ugly. Outfielder Abraham Almonte, 78 homerless at-bats into his season, took Germen deep to lead off the inning.

Shortstop Brad Miller followed with a single, and Randy St. Claire made a visit to the mound, during which he presumably said, “Hey, stop giving up so many hits.” At first, whatever he said seemed to work. Germen got Dustin Ackley, in Tacoma on a learn-left-field/remember-how-to-hit assignment, to ground out, then got Justin Smoak, in Tacoma on a regular rehab assignment, on another grounder.

But then Peguero hit his second homer of the game to right-center,

and Poythress hit a ball out to left,

and Tenbrink homered to left-center.

Shortly after the fourth home run of the inning landed, the announcer on the milb.tv feed said, “And the 51s are now scrambling in the bullpen.” As you can tell, that feed is pretty terrible—no one wants to watch a game from a single camera placed where that one was. But the nice thing about even the ugliest milb.tv feeds is that you get to hear hecklers very clearly. And following the fourth homer, one made his feelings about Germen felt:

Germen’s final line: 1 1/3 innings, seven hits, one walk, and seven runs. He also allowed the runner he inherited from Leathersich to score.

Our minor league play-by-play data goes back to 2005, and while no Triple-A pitcher allowed four home runs in an inning last year, it has happened seven times in the last eight seasons. If it’s any consolation to Germen, six of the seven pitchers with four-homer innings have some sort of major league history:

Date

Pitcher

Hitters

7/21/11

Andrew Baldwin

Dan Johnson, J.J. Furmaniak, Daniel Mayora, John Matulia

5/13/11

Robert Coello

Josh Fields, Matt Macri, Chris Nelson, Willy Taveras

7/21/10

Chase Wright

Jay Gibbons, Justin Sellers, Trent Oeltjen, Russell Mitchell

8/24/09

Armando Benitez

Mark Hamilton, Troy Glaus, Daniel Descalso, Allen Craig

7/26/07

Juan Mateo

Ian Stewart, Joe Gaetti, Edwin Bellorin, Seth Smith

6/17/05

Travis Driskill

Luis Ugueto, Justin Gemoll, Chad Santos, Chris Truby

6/3/05

Kazuhito Tadano

Mike Vento, Andy Phillips, Mitch Jones, Wil Nieves

In the majors, the four-homer inning has happened 27 times since 1950 (and 17 times since 2000). Some pretty good pitchers are among the victims: Catfish Hunter, John Smoltz, and Randy Johnson, to name the three Hall of Fame-iest. The last to allow four homers in an inning was Dave Bush on August 11, 2010, when Miguel Montero, Stephen Drew, Mark Reynolds, and Adam LaRoche took him deep.

The natural next question, after establishing who’s allowed four homers in an inning, is to ask whether anyone has coughed up five. And the answer is: no one in the majors (since 1950) and no one in the upper minors (since 2005). But there is one record in our database of a five-homer inning, and it happened in the Class-A South Atlantic League in 2008.

On June 3rd of that season, a 20-year-old lefty starter for the Rays-affiliated Columbus Catfish, Glenn Gibson, allowed five homers and struck out the side in the first inning of a game against the Savannah Sand Gnats. Here’s the play-by-play:

Gibson, who allowed only seven homers in his other 77 innings that season, stayed in the game and held the Sand Gnats scoreless over the next three innings. Sadly, this was the 12th straight loss for the Catfish. Also sadly, the game story contains no quotes.

Gibson called it quits after 2011, and only one of the five hitters who homered off him is still active. That hitter is Francisco Pena. And Pena plays catcher for the Las Vegas 51s, which makes him a teammate of…Gonzalez Germen.

Boom. Full circle.

Thanks to Ryan Lind for research assistance.

Ben Lindbergh is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here

Related Content:  Home Runs,  Gonzalez Germen

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