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Ynoa Knows How to Hit

May 9, 2021

Hugh Atkins

The Atlanta Braves have a new ace on their pitching staff and a new slugger in their batting order–and it is the same player. In his last three starts, right-hander Huascar Ynoa is 3-0 with a 0.98 earned run average and has not allowed a run in his last 13⅓ innings.

As impressive as he has been on the mound, Ynoa’s prowess at the plate is even more amazing. In those same three games Ynoa is hitting .625 (5-8) with a double, two home runs, including a grand slam, and six runs batted in. For the season, he is 3-1 with a 2.36 ERA and is hitting .385. Neither of those is too shabby.

I am anxious to see how Ynoa’s batting line will look after three more games. He has a ways to go to match an impressive string of six games at the plate by another Braves pitcher. In 1966 Tony Cloninger went on a tear that most regular players would envy.

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Cloninger launched his assault against National League pitchers on June 16, going 3-5 with two home runs and five RBIs. On the mound he pitched a complete game, gave up only one run, and got the win.

On June 19 Cloninger struck out as a pinch hitter against Bob Veale, a tough left-hander with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Cloninger was back on the mound on June 20 and got the win with another complete game while allowing five runs. At the plate he was 2-4 with two RBIs.

On June 25 Cloninger went 1-3 at the plate with two RBIs. He got no decision, pitching seven innings and giving up three runs.

On June 29 Cloninger came back to earth a bit at the plate, going 0-4. He got no decision on the mound, giving up four runs in eight innings. And then came July 3 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

In the top of the first, Cloninger launched a grand slam. With a runner in scoring position in the third, he grounded out. The Braves were leading 9-0 when Cloninger stepped to the plate in the fourth and hit his second grand slam of the game, becoming not only the first pitcher ever to do such a thing, but also the first National League player to do it.

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Cloninger was not done. He flied out in the sixth, but drove in a run with a single in the eighth. His batting line on the day was 3-5, two runs scored, and nine RBIs as the Braves coasted to a 17-3 victory. On the mound, Cloninger went the distance for the win while giving up those three runs.

For the six-game stretch (including his pinch hit appearance), Cloninger hit .409, with four home runs and 18 RBIs. He was 3-0 with three complete games and a 3.43 ERA over that span.

I have written extensively about Cloninger’s big day at the plate, most recently at the time of his death in 2018. Even though nearly 55 years have passed since that day, every time a pitcher hits a grand slam, I drift back to a carefree Sunday afternoon where my older brothers, Cush and John, and I have the game on the radio, and just for a little while we are young again, and all is right with the world.

Huascar Ynoa already has three wins in his last three starts, but I am guessing he will not match Coninger’s hitting performance. Ynoa will be on the mound–and at the plate–for the Braves tonight against the Philadelphia Phillies, and I will be watching.

(All game details are from Retrosheetall statistics are from Baseball Reference.)

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 10, 2021 9:56 am

    I’ve got to admit that I had never heard of the guy, but he is definitely on my radar now.

    Like

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