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Oakland A’s prospect watch: Triple-A Las Vegas sets league record with 11 homers

A Pacific Coast League record for homers in a single game.

Catcher Sean Murphy led the way with 3 dingers.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It’s no secret that the Triple-A Pacific Coast League is a hitter’s paradise, but the Las Vegas Aviators took it to a new level on Friday. The Oakland A’s affiliate launched 11 home runs, setting a PCL record for most in a single game, en route to a 20-11 victory in El Paso.

The dinger count worked out like this:

  • C Sean Murphy (3)
  • SS Jorge Mateo (2)
  • CF Dustin Fowler (2)
  • RF Mark Payton (2)
  • LF Nick Martini (1)
  • 1B Seth Brown (1)

There are several notable names on that list, between top prospects Murphy and Mateo, recent top prospect Fowler, and 2018 surprise rookie sensation Martini. In particular, this was only Murphy’s second game back in Triple-A since returning from a torn meniscus in his knee; he also homered in his first game the previous day. The one by Brown was his team-leading 23rd of the year, and then he added two more in the team’s next game on Saturday. Payton also took a team lead with a .317 isolated slugging percentage.

Making this 20-11 win even more amazing is that it was a comeback victory. The Chihuahuas took a 7-1 lead in the 2nd inning, and then increased it to 11-4 in the 3rd. From there on, the Aviators scored the final 16 runs of the evening. Click here to see the full box score.

The previous record of 10 homers in a game had been done twice, according to the official site of the minors. The first time was in 1974, and then this May the Reno Aces (D’Backs) did it.

Of course, the story of the PCL this season has been the explosion of offense, even beyond the league’s usual hitter-friendly reputation. Both Triple-A leagues switched to MLB balls this season, which were considered livelier than minor league balls and were therefore expected to increase power numbers, and then on top of that the MLB balls have been juiced beyond their normal levels this year.

Indeed, the difference has shown up in the stats. The PCL averaged a homer per 42 plate appearances from 2014-18 combined, with a low of 38 PAs in 2017, and this year that number is down to just 26 PAs. The International League averaged one per nearly 51 PAs from 2014-18, with a low of 44 PAs in 2017, and are down to 29.5 PAs this year. Team scoring is up by around a run per game in both leagues.

On top of all that, El Paso is one of the best hitter’s parks in the league, comparable to Las Vegas’ own bandbox. As if to drive that point home (that’s an RBI joke), the Aviators lost 15-9 on Thursday the night before their record-setting slugfest, and then won 11-2 on Saturday in their subsequent matchup.

But even with all those caveats and asterisks, a record is a record and plenty of other PCL clubs have had their chance to launch 11 dingers. But only the Aviators have done it, so congrats to them!