By all competitive measures, there are “better” games than hitting for a single, a double, a triple, and a homer in the same game. The three-homer game, certainly. A couple homers and a double? Yes, I would argue it is. A five-hit game with multiple extra-base hits, including a homer? Yeah, I’d say that’s right up there, too.
But there’s something about it having a name. The Cycle. Hitting for one each of the single, double, triple, and homer. It just sounds cool. I get it. We should revere it a little bit as special.
Which is why I find St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado’s “cycle” last night a little annoying.
Having logged a legit triple, homer, and double in his first three at bats, Arenado came up in the 8th needing a single to complete the cycle. He hit a hard one to third base, which Matt Vierling biffed, and then also threw away. Somehow, it was scored a hit, and I like the way Joe put this:
Watching on the replay, you can see that (1) Vierling absolutely tanked that ball with a terrible backhanded effort, and (2) even after that, with an on-target throw, Arenado would’ve been out by a step or two. But the throw was SO WILD that not only was Arenado safe, and not only could he take second, but you could also lie to yourself and say that he would’ve been safe if the trajectory were different (no chance – I have gone frame-by-frame on this bad boy because I am that much of a dork).
And that, again, ignores the fact that Vierling booted the ball in the first place. Yes, it was hit hard, but come on – it was 97.9 mph off the bat. Not exactly the kind of rocket that no reasonable player should be expected to handle. That’s a tough, but obviously makeable play. If it comes in the first inning, it’s scored an error. We all know it. A rough error, maybe, but there’s no chance anyone is left debating it for more than 20 seconds.
So, in conclusion: Nolan Arenado “hit for the cycle,” but only if you live in a fantasy world where every tough groundball and errant throw leads to a “hit.”
Baseball is not without its sense of karmic justice, though.
The Cardinals ultimately lost the game when the Phillies broke a 3-3 tie with a couple solo homers late. How did the Phillies come to tie the game at three, though? A Nolan Arenado error at third base opened up a three-run inning for the Phillies in the fifth, blowing an early 3-0 lead for the Cardinals.