Sunday, September 11, 2011

Brewers backup catcher George Kottaras hits first cycle of ?11

The 2011 regular season will not end without a batter hitting for the cycle, baseball fans. George Kottaras got this one for us.

With about three weeks remaining on the schedule, the Milwaukee Brewers backup catcher became the first to get a single, double, triple and home run all in the same game Saturday night against the Houston Astros.

As typically happens with such scenarios, circumstances came together nicely to help Kottaras achieve his feat. For instance, Kottaras usually starts only when left-hander Randy Wolf pitches for the Brewers. But manager Ron Roenicke wanted more left-handed bats in the lineup against Astros pitcher Bud Norris, so Kottaras started with Chris Narveson on the hill.

Watch Kottaras' hit for the cycle

Hitting at Minute Maid Park also seemed to aid Kottaras' cause. In particular, Tal's Hill in center field played a role with his triple and double.

Leading off the sixth inning, Kottaras' drive to center field bounced off the hill, against the wall, and back on to the hill while Houston's Jason Bourgeois chased the ball down. Kottaras had his second career triple.

In the ninth, needing a double to complete the cycle, Kottaras hit another ball to deep center that hit the base of the mound and bounced over the fence. The ground-rule double gave Kottaras what he needed for the cycle, but had the ball not gone over the fence, would Kottaras have stopped at second base?

No way, he says.

"It's natural instinct to keep going," he said. "I'm not going to pull up just for the cycle. You just play the game the right way, the way it's supposed to be played."

On both hits, Tal's Hill ? which is 90 feet wide and has a 30-degree incline ? not only provided a funky bounces, but it also arguably prevented Bourgeois from pursuing the line drives at full speed. If he didn't have to worry about running into or up the bump, would Bourgeois have closed harder on those balls? Would he have gotten to those balls sooner after they first bounced?

That's not to take anything away from Kottaras hitting the ball hard, of course. As he said, he was almost at second base when the double bounced over the fence. Plus, with Minute Maid's center-field fence 436 feet away, both of those deep drives would've been home runs in many other ballparks.

Kottaras became the seventh player in Brewers history to hit for the cycle. However, it wasn't that long of a wait between cycles for Milwaukee, as Jody Gerut pulled it off a season ago. Strangely, the past three Brewers to hit for the cycle were all bench players. And two of them were catchers ? Charlie Moore and Chad Moeller. Use that one to impress people at whichever holiday cookout you attend.

Rockies slugger Carlos Gonzalez had the most recent cycle league-wide, doing so July 31 of 2010, completing it with a walk-off home run to beat the Cubs.

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