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Homer Brewed

Green got things going last season with record-setting day at Milwaukee

May 23, 2003|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

MILWAUKEE — Exactly one year has passed since Shawn Green plastered his name all over baseball's record book, smashing four home runs and amassing 19 total bases in a 16-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers in Miller Park, but the details of what may be the most prolific offensive day in the history of the game are no more crystallized in the Dodger right fielder's mind.

"I remember it being a blur the whole day," said Green, who returns to the scene of the sublime tonight when the Dodgers open a three-game series in Miller Park. "I looked up, and all of a sudden I had five hits and three home runs going into my last at-bat. It came out of nowhere."

That last at-bat was the coup de grace, a 450-foot ninth-inning blast off reliever Jose Cabrera that landed on a concourse well beyond the right-center field wall. That capped a six-for-six, seven-RBI day in which Green became the 14th player in major league history to hit four homers in a game.

Green's five extra-base hits -- he also had a double and a single -- tied a National League record, his six hits tied a franchise record, and his 19 total bases were a major league record, breaking the previous mark of 18, set by Joe Adcock of the Milwaukee Braves in 1954.

"It would take me a week to get 19 total bases, and he did it in a matter of, what, three hours?" Dodger center fielder Dave Roberts said. "What he did in a major league game, people can't do in batting practice. It was a perfect day. It was phenomenal. I'm at a loss for words when trying to find adjectives for that day."

So is third-base coach Glenn Hoffman.

"Nineteen total bases ... oh my gosh, I didn't even reach that one year," said Hoffman, a former Red Sox, Dodger and Angel infielder. "That was an individual day you won't see for a long time. We'll still be talking about it 20 years from now."

A four-homer game is even harder to fathom today, "because that's almost as many home runs as I have this year," said Green, who has five home runs in 2003. "You get in a groove like that and you wonder how you ever go into slumps."

When the Dodgers arrived in Milwaukee last May, Green was mired in the worst slump of his nine-year career, a one-for-19 skid that had lowered his average to .231.

Green had all of three home runs, and in five games before the Brewer series, he failed to hit a ball out of the infield. Even worse, the fan favorite was booed in Dodger Stadium.

Green found his stroke with two solo home runs in an 8-6 loss to the Brewers on May 21, and he tripled in the Dodgers' only run in a 1-0 victory the next night.

Then on May 23, a day game and the finale of a three-game series, Green hit an RBI double to right field in the first inning and a three-run homer to right in the second against left-handed starter Glendon Rusch, who, coincidentally, is scheduled to start tonight for the Brewers.

A solo shot to right-center off reliever Brian Mallette in the fourth inning gave Green two home runs, and Green added an opposite-field solo homer to left-center off Mallette in the fifth.

"On the bench, it felt like a guy throwing a no-hitter," Roberts said. "No one wanted to talk to him because he was in such a zone."

Green lined a sharp single to center in the eighth off Cabrera, and it appeared his day would end there. But a ninth-inning rally and Adrian Beltre's two-out, two-run homer gave Green another shot.

"You're sitting there thinking, 'No way, no way is he gonna do that again,' and boom -- there it goes," Dodger left fielder Brian Jordan said. "It was an unreal day, a dream day. That was a pretty good month, all in one day."

What followed was two amazing months. Green homered against Curt Schilling in his first at-bat in Arizona the next night. He hit two homers the following day and another two days after that, giving him 10 home runs in a week.

From May 21, the day the Milwaukee series started, to July 11, Green hit .335 with 24 homers and 48 RBIs in 43 games, the springboard to a season in which he hit .285 with 42 homers and 114 RBIs.

"I went from as bad a slump as I've ever gone through to being as locked in as you can possibly be," Green said. "That whole series was a big psychological boost. It turned around my whole season."

Green can't help but notice the parallels between 2002 and 2003. His average (.267) is better this season, but his power numbers (five homers, 22 RBIs) are weak. Green has a .438 slugging percentage and is batting .235 with runners in scoring position.

"It's really frightening how similar this is to last year," Green said. "There was the search for the first six or seven weeks of last season. Hopefully I can turn it around as quick as I did last year. I'm looking to get in a good groove and to build off that. I'm not expecting a 10-homer week."

His teammates seem to be. While Green has struggled, the Dodgers have serenaded him all week with this refrain: "Don't worry, you're going to Milwaukee soon." As if a trip to Miller Park is all Green needs to go into monster mash mode.

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