Francisco Peña hit a single, double, and a home run in his first three plate appearances in last night's 12-4 romp over the Phillies. It was easily the best game of his career, almost all of which has been spent in a "break open in a case of emergency"-type role.
Not only did last night account for 40 percent of Peña's career extra-base hits (the double was also his first extra-base hit that wasn't a homer), if you receive MLB alerts on your phone you were likely notified that he was a triple away from the cycle. Aren't those alerts fun?
Peña struck out in his last at-bat so it was not meant to be because of course it wasn't. Triples don't happen very often - they account for less than 0.50 percent of plate appearances in MLB in 2018, thus far - which means cycles also don't happen very often. Had Peña somehow connected for a triple later in the game, it would have been the first cycle from a Cardinal since Mark Grudzielanek in 2005 and only the 16th all-time.
Cycles especially don't happen very often from a player who fits Peña's profile, i.e., someone who 1) isn't a very good hitter; and 2) plays catcher. There are no catchers on the list above, as you see. And since 1908, there has only been 53 instances in which a catcher for the Cardinals was a triple away from the cycle. Here are the most recent 25.
(This is the first time I have thought about Héctor Villanueva, the Cardinal, in many, many years.)
In a search to find which Cardinals catcher has been the closest to a cycle while actually hitting a triple - because that seems like the hardest part - I am here to report that no Cardinal backstop has ever hit a double, triple, and a home run in the same game. However, here are the select few who have hit a single, triple, and a home run.
And here's the list of those who have hit a single, double, and a triple, with the most recent being Mike Matheny.
That was Matheny's lone triple in 2004, and he finished his career with just nine. That 2004 season really was magic. To steal my old colleague Scooter Simon's line, it really is too bad they cancelled the World Series.
And to bring it back to Peña, not only did he reach safely in his first three plate appearances last night but he also came around to score each time. Because this stuff is important, here's the exclusive list of Cardinals catchers who have been a triple shy of the cycle while also crossing home plate at least three times.
Francisco Peña will be relegated back to the bench in a couple of weeks when Yadier Molina returns. Last night is now frozen in time though and with Carson Kelly out with an injury as well, the timing for Peña's bat to come alive could not have been better.
Credit to Baseball Reference's Play Index for the stats in this post. You can subscribe here.