Now This Is A Real Inside-The-Park Home Run
8:59 AM EDT on August 17, 2023
Baseball's official scorers are more forgiving than ever, and the all-time low in errors for the 2023 season should mean that if a player makes contact on a long, meandering hit through the outfield that leads to a trip around the bases it'll be easier to get credited for a home run as opposed to, like, a double and an E9. We saw this firsthand Monday night in Mariners-Royals, where even though Seattle right fielder Dominic Canzone was literally hit by the ball as he failed to make a catch, Bobby Witt Jr. was still able to add to his official dinger tally.
But if there's any ballpark where a hard-hit ball too low to clear the fence has always carried the threat of an inside-the-parker, it's in San Francisco. Because there's never a bad reason to rewatch this play, I will now briefly allow you to reminisce upon the 2007 All-Star Game, where Ichiro won MVP honors largely because of this smash to the right-center wall. It avoided Ken Griffey Jr. almost as if it had a mind of its own.
It's not only the visiting defenders victimized by those bounces. The Giants themselves were on the short end of an awesome, odd, and earned inside-the-parker on Wednesday in their loss to the Rays. This one was accomplished by Luke Raley, a 28-year-old in his first full major-league season whom the Dodgers and Twins traded a total of three times before he arrived in Tampa. The free-swinging, fast-running first baseman/outfielder has exploded this year with a .517 slugging percentage and an OPS+ of 136. He's been in a bit of a slump in August, but he entered this game as a pinch hitter and, without taking a single pitch, drove a meaty breaking ball out to that multifaceted danger zone in right-center.
This ball didn't just bounce around the outfield—it bounced across the top of the center-field wall after hitting the bricks in right, Bugs Bunnying the defenders who thought they knew where it was going. The Giants outfield was left scurrying, while Raley circled home safely without any stress at all.
"I didn't draw it up that way," Raley said. "I would rather just hit it over the wall and then be able to jog, but you know, they all count the same."
Said his manager, Kevin Cash, "It looked like a rat running across the top of the fence there." (I would have said squirrel, personally, but that's fine.)
Our own Ray Ratto was on the scene, and he delivered this eyewitness report of Raley's home run, while expressing hope for even more chaos in the future:
It was one of those drives only this mutation of a park could deliver. All the people sitting with me announced 'That's inside the park' before Raley hit second base, and it was quite literally way more fun than all 102 splash hits the park has seen in 24 years. I think next year there should be mountain climbers' climbing holds and protrusions, and they should put the bullpens back on foul ground to scare the crap out of outfielders and corner infielders.
San Francisco came into the day desperately needing to build some momentum, which they squandered with a 6-1 defeat. They'd beaten the Rays handily on Tuesday, but overall, since a seven-game win streak ended on July 19, they've been in a tailspin. On that day, they were 54-41, only 1.5 games back of the Dodgers in the NL West. This morning, as Los Angeles celebrates an ongoing 10-0 streak, the Giants are 64-57, completely out of the division race and scrapping to hold back Chicago, Cincinnati, and Miami in the wild card.
Alex Cobb, a pillar for a team that has little depth to its starting rotation, has gotten shelled in his last few starts. Austin Slater, who was the team's best hitter when he was healthy, is three for his last 40, with 15 strikeouts. Nobody else is picking up the slack. Over the past 30 days the Giants are worst in the league in average, OBP, and slugging, and maybe most feebly of all, they've stolen just one lonely base across the past month, after stealing 45 up to that point. They can still make the playoffs, because the playoffs are now built for weird, creaky teams to get a shot. But it feels like things are crumbling.
So that Raley seeing-eye homer is just the sort of thing that happens to a team where everything's going wrong. If there's any silver lining for them it's that, per Statcast's data, this exact hit would have been a home run in every other MLB park—no bounces needed.
Raley earned this one, or at least the Giants didn’t hand it to him. The only error here was in trusting physics to be friend and not foe.