On this date 20 years ago, San Francisco Giants second baseman Jeff Kent recorded the 20th cycle in franchise history.
Going all the way back to the 1882 season, there have been 325 instances in MLB history where a player has hit for the cycle—that is, recorded a single, double, triple and home run in the same game. The San Francisco Giants franchise has accounted for 23 of them.
It’s a trivial accomplishment in the grand scheme of things. After all, a 4-for-4 game with two triples and two home runs would carry greater significance and none of the pomp.
Nevertheless, it’s something we celebrate each time it occurs.
To that point, it was 20 years ago today that second baseman Jeff Kent hit for the cycle against the Pittsburgh Pirates. So let’s take a look back at that memorable day.
The 1999 season was the year before Kent won NL MVP honors. He hit .290/.366/.511 with 40 doubles, 23 home runs and 101 RBI for 3.5 WAR to finish 26th in NL MVP voting.
He had recorded a hit in 11 of 12 games heading into a Monday night contest with the Pirates on May 3, posting a .304/.407/.543 line during that stretch.
Left-hander Chris Peters got the start for the Pirates. He had entered the Pittsburgh rotation in the middle of April after starting the season in the bullpen, posting a 4.80 ERA in three starts leading up his May 3 outing.
A 37th-round pick who defied the odds to even reach the majors, he finished the 1999 season with a 6.59 ERA and was out of the league two years later before his 30th birthday.
With Barry Bonds on the disabled list following surgery for a torn biceps tendon and bone spurs in his elbow, Kent was penciled into the cleanup spot in the San Francisco lineup, between right fielder Ellis Burks and third baseman Charlie Hayes.
Interestingly, Kent also made his lone start of the season at first base in this game.
Here’s how it went down:
First At-Bat: Single
The first two batters of the game reached base in the top of the first inning before Kent came to the plate with one out and runners on first and third.
He hit the first pitch he saw on the ground through the hole on the left side of the infield for an RBI single. Hayes grounded into a double play to end the inning after that, but the Giants were on the board.
Second At-Bat: Home Run
Kent came to the plate next in the third inning with runners on first and second and one out after Ramon Martinez and Burks hit back-to-back singles.
He jumped on the first pitch he saw from Peter again and took advantage of a pitch that was left out over the plate. The deep fly ball to left-center field cleared the wall for Kent’s fourth home run of the young season.
Third At-Bat: Triple
The Giants took a 5-4 lead into the fifth inning and Peters was still on the mound for the Pirates when Kent stepped into the box for his third plate appearance.
After Burks led off the inning with a single, Kent laced a 1-0 pitch into the right-center gap with the outfield playing to pull, and when the ball died on the warning track, Kent was off to the races.
He slid headfirst into third base ahead of the relay throw for an RBI triple.
Fourth At-Bat: Double
While Peters finished the fifth inning, he was lifted after that with the Pirates trailing 7-4.
Marc Wilkins was on the mound in the seventh inning when Kent stepped into the box needing a double to complete the cycle.
The 28-year-old right-hander was a useful middle reliever for the Pirates at the end of the ’90s, including the 1999 season when he posted a 4.24 ERA with eight holds in 46 appearances.
With one out and Burks caught stealing on the first pitch of the at-bat, Kent lined a 1-0 pitch to the right of left fielder Al Martin. Racing out of the box, Kent pushed the issue and slid into second just ahead of Martin’s throw to complete the cycle.
Fifth At-Bat: Single
For good measure, Kent added a single up the middle against reliever Rich Loiselle in the top of the ninth to finish the day 5-for-5 with five RBI and two runs scored.
Unfortunately, Brian Giles (3-for-5, 2 HR, 5 RBI) also had a big game for the Pirates, and closer Robb Nen blew an 8-5 lead in the ninth inning. Warren Morris and Giles both homered before Brant Brown delivered the walk-off RBI single.
“It’s not a priority of mine to be individually successfully. I’m too old and have done too many things … a World Series ring is all I care about,” Kent told reporters after the game.
Not a surprising response.
Still, while it wasn’t the result the Giants were looking for, the game provided a memorable moment in team history, and 20 years later we’re still looking back fondly.