Center fielder completes feat with double in eighth inning Friday night
HOUSTON -- Brandon Barnes earned a spot in franchise lore on Friday night even more exclusive than the Astros' extensive no-hit club, as he notched the eighth cycle in team history. It was the 283rd cycle in MLB history, according to Retrosheet.
The center fielder barely beat out a double in the eighth inning, putting an historic tint to a night in which he went 5-for-5, scored three runs and drove in two during Houston's 10-7 loss to Seattle.
"It's the top moment [of my career so far]," Barnes said. "I was just thankful to do it in front of my wife. That was an awesome moment."
He's the first Astros player to hit for the cycle since Luke Scott did it in reverse order as a rookie against the D-backs in 2006, when he needed an extra-inning affair to provide one extra opportunity at the dish.
The last Astros right-handed hitter to accomplish the feat was Craig Biggio, who pulled it off against the Rockies in April 2002.
Cesar Cedeno recorded the first two cycles in Astros history (1972, 1976) and was followed by Bob Watson (1977), Andujar Cedeno (1992), Jeff Bagwell (2001), Biggio and Scott.
That's lofty company for Barnes, who is still a rookie and has only been a full-time starter in center for the last two months.
He's swung a hot-and-cold bat all year, garnering notoriety more for his highlight-reel catches in the spacious Minute Maid outfield than for wielding a prodigious bat.
"I'm not worried on how I'm perceived about whether I'm a defensive player or offensive guy," Barnes said. "I just do everything in my capability to play hard and good things can come out there. That's how nights like tonight happen."
He won't have to worry about perception after Friday's performance. He took Seattle starter Joe Saunders deep for a no-doubt solo home run over the 404-foot sign in left-center field during the second inning to kickstart the quest for one of baseball's rare hitting feats.
Barnes erased the ever-difficult triple off the cycle checklist in the fourth, lining a ball into the right-field gap that plated a run.
A single in the sixth put a palpable buzz into the home crowd, but it burned out quickly when the Mariners smashed a three-run blast to nab a 9-3 lead in the eighth.
Still, in the Houston dugout, everyone knew. No-hitters and near misses are treated with reverential shunning among baseball folks and Barnes' attempt at a cycle was no different.
Teammates were careful with their words and silence surrounded Barnes more than praise in the dugout, but the scoreboard couldn't be ignored.
By the time he stepped to the plate with a man on first and no outs in the eighth inning, there was no denying the stakes, as his hits were splattered across the Minute Maid jumbotron for all to see. Home run, triple, single. Only a two-bagger's absence tantalizingly teased those awaiting history.
"I don't think it's anything you talk about, but everyone was aware of the potential for [a cycle] in the dugout," manager Bo Porter said. "Normally, the triple is the hardest one, so when he was able to get that one, you knew he had a chance."
As soon as Barnes slapped a 1-1 pitch down the first-base line, the crowd volume immediately ascended to a fever pitch almost as if the Astros had just clinched a postseason win.
But two bases wasn't a sure thing, as Seattle right fielder Michael Saunders expertly played the carom off the foul-territory fence and launched a one-hopper that beat Barnes to the base.
"When it was there, I had to go for it," Barnes said. "I just was excited I had the opportunity in front of me. I wanted to win, too, so I was stretching first for the team and because we needed runs."
The wiry 27-year-old narrowly dodged the high tag, drawing animated fist pumps from Barnes and a standing ovation from the Minute Maid crowd.
"I was aware that I needed that [double]," Barnes said. "So I said a little prayer before I went up there. I was grateful for what I'd done already, and I decided to make it fun."
For good measure, Barnes added an infield single in the ninth, completing a wholly unique night at the dish.
"That's what you call living right," Porter said.
He's the first Astros player to hit for the cycle against an American League team and just the second player in franchise history to complete his cycle with a double.
It's a rare club that Barnes joins, with Biggio, Bagwell and Cedeno, who did it twice, among the other Astros to claim the cycle.
Barnes may not be the latest "Killer B" in an Houston uniform, but he was an honorary member for at least one night.
"Those guys are Hall of Famers in my book, and to be able to be associated with them in that aspect, it's a blessing and I'm thankful for that," Barnes said.
It's an even rarer feat than the no-hitter in club records, as Barnes made it eight cycles against ten Houston no-nos.
It's not even technically Barnes' first cycle as a pro, given that he hit for one with Class A Lancaster in June of 2010.
This one meant a little more, with Barnes joining an exclusive group of under 300 players in Major-League history who have managed four unique hits during a single game.
"That there's a great feat," said Porter. "It's obviously something that doesn't happen in our game every day. To accomplish it in a big league game is pretty impressive and it couldn't happen to a better guy.
"When you talk about accomplishments like the cycle, you may have seen it done before or talk about it amongst yourselves, but it's not often you have the opportunity. You may square the ball up so well, you end up getting three doubles. To Brandon's credit, he put together three really good at-bats and then put himself in position for this huge accomplishment."
Chris Abshire is an associate reporter for MLB.com.