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If you love home runs, this year is for you

Balls are flying out of parks at a record rate in 2019.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

In the year of the home run, this week has been especially prolific. Players have been practically tripping over themselves to join the dinger parade. For the first time in major league history, we’ve had a three-homer game in four consecutive days.

Robinson Cano did the deed for the Mets Tuesday, then Paul DeJong did so Wednesday for the Cardinals. Nelson Cruz homered thrice Thursday for the Twins, and reigning American League MVP Mookie Betts hit three home runs Friday night for the Red Sox.

Before this week, we’ve never even had three straight days with a three-home run game. Now, we’re at four.

Cano and DeJong hit their third home runs in their final at-bats, while Cruz and Betts allowed us to dream. Cruz hit his third home run in the fifth inning Thursday, and Betts did so by the fourth inning Friday. So we not only got to see them get a chance for a fourth home run but also a possible shot at a fifth. We are a greedy bunch, not content with only a record four homers — only 18 players have done this — but rather a brand new, shiny accomplishment. Who could blame us for wanting more? Home runs are exciting.

For home-run gluttons, 2019 is the ultimate bacchanal. Heading into the weekend, more home runs have been hit this season (4,278) than in the entirety of 2014 (4,186). MLB is on pace currently for 580 more home runs than the previous record season of 2017. A byproduct of a juiced ball.

Home runs are so prevalent in today’s game that even an all-time great pitcher like Justin Verlander isn’t immune. The Astros right-hander leads MLB in home runs allowed but is still a Cy Young candidate. Dingers are simply unavoidable.

No team has hit more long balls than Cruz’s Twins, whose 201 home runs are 26 more than any other team. They reached 200 home runs on the season on Friday, Minnesota’s 103rd game. That’s not just the quickest to 200 homers in MLB history, but it beat the old mark by 19 games. Take that, 2005 Rangers.

The Twins are on pace for an unfathomable 316 home runs. Minnesota hit 196 home runs when they won their first World Series in 1987, then hit 140 home runs four years later when they captured another championship. Times have changed.

The MLB record is 267 home runs, set just last year by the Yankees, who are on pace in 2019 for 274 dingers. Imagine breaking a home run record, then beating that mark the next year only to be 13 percent behind the league leader. Welcome to pinball.

On the flip side, the Orioles have allowed 194 home runs. That’s a pace for 305 dingers, which would shatter the record for most home runs given up — 258, by the 2016 Reds.

Yankees starting pitchers have gone through a gauntlet of sorts in the last week. All three of Betts’ home runs Friday were against James Paxton. New York starters have allowed 17 home runs in their last seven games, fueling an astonishing 15.61 ERA while averaging under four innings per start. Nobody is immune from the long ball.

Home run notes

  • Including his three-homer game Thursday, Cruz has homered in five straight games. Per Elias, he’s the seventh player with a five-game home run streak for two different teams.
  • Paul Goldschmidt has also homered in five straight games, and not so coincidentally the Cardinals have won six straight and now sit atop a crowded National League Central race. Goldschmidt has struggled in his first year in St. Louis, hitting .246/.336/.405 through the end of June. But his July has been scorching, hitting .297/.361/.703 with nine homers.
  • Edwin Encarnacion hit his 30th home run of the season Wednesday, his eighth straight season with 30 home runs, the longest active streak in baseball. Encarnacion’s 293 home runs since the start of 2012 are the most in baseball — 13 more than Cruz.
  • Billy Hamilton remains a nonconformist. Of the 275 major leaguers with at least 200 plate appearances in 2019, the speedy Royals outfielder is the only one without a home run. Fifteen different pitchers have hit home runs this year, led by Zack Greinke with three.
  • Thirteen different teams are on pace to set franchise home run records this season — the Twins, Dodgers, Yankees, Brewers, Astros, A’s, Cubs, Red Sox, Braves, Padres, Mets, Diamondbacks, and Nationals.
  • Major League Baseball set a record with 1,135 home runs in May, then broke the mark with 1,142 home runs in June. The four days off of the all-star break has torpedoed July’s chance at a third straight record month, but on a per-game basis (1.43) this month has been even more prolific than June (1.41) or May (1.37).