Zavala makes HR history with first 3 jacks

August 1st, 2021

CHICAGO -- is known more for his defense and game-calling behind the plate than his prodigious output with the bat. At least, that’s the case in this very early part of his big league career.

But in Saturday night’s 12-11 loss to the Indians at Guaranteed Rate Field, the White Sox catcher showed there’s quite a bit of power in his repertoire as well. Zavala hit three home runs, one to each field, becoming the first player in American League or National League history to hit his first three career homers in the same game.

"I always knew I had power to all parts of the field. Line to line's my game,” Zavala said. “This field's a little hitter friendly, so it definitely helps a little bit."

“It was just so special. He was so productive,” manager Tony La Russa said. “They were all well-hit balls and timely, everything helped us [with] a chance to win. Can't give him enough credit."

Zavala homered in the third off Cleveland starting pitcher Triston McKenzie, blasting a Statcast-projected 411-foot drive to center field. He connected on his first career grand slam in the fourth on a 377-foot drive to left, again off McKenzie, drawing a curtain call from the fans. Zavala then started a two-run seventh-inning rally with a 369-foot home run to right off reliever Bryan Shaw.

That’s 1,157 feet of homers for an individual who was 5-for-40 to start his Major League career and 4-for-28 since joining the White Sox this season. In an interesting side note, Zavala actually felt as if he just missed that first homer off McKenzie.

“But it kept going and going,” Zavala said. “Luckily it went over. It was a good feeling seeing my teammates on top of the top spot in the dugout. It was fun. I wish we could have won.”

“Amazing. The guy works his butt off, and just very disappointing to not do my job properly in order for him to get some recognition,” said White Sox starter Dallas Keuchel, who finished with a no-decision after allowing five runs in 5 1/3 innings. “That was one of the best performances I’ve seen in a long time.”

Zavala became the 17th player in White Sox history to hit three homers in a game, taking place for the 18th time, and first since José Abreu hit three at Wrigley Field on Aug. 22, 2020.  Zavala also became the first White Sox catcher to homer three times in a game, and was the first catcher overall to do so since the Yankees’ Kyle Higashioka on Sept. 16, 2020 vs. Toronto.

Zavala's six RBIs matched Craig Grebeck (April 30, 1992 vs. Texas) for the second most by a White Sox No. 9 hitter, trailing only Charles Johnson, who recorded seven RBIs on Sept. 2, 2000 vs. the Angels.

“My timing's been off here and there,” Zavala said. “It comes and goes and even though this past week I hadn't really produced much, I felt like I was on time for a majority of the pitches and I was just missing them.

“Today, especially that, I think the grand slam. I think it was 2-0 and I was like, ‘I can't miss the heater. If he throws me a slider and I'm out in front, who cares?’ But I was like, I'm not missing a heater."

Cleveland trailed by a 6-1 margin, but rallied for two in the fifth and five in the sixth to seize control. Much of that damage was done against reliever Michael Kopech, who allowed five runs on five hits over one inning. Kopech had not allowed more than one run in a game this season and had given up two earned runs in his last 15 innings entering Saturday.

Both La Russa and Zavala wanted to check the video on Kopech after the loss, thinking the right-hander could have been tipping.

“They looked too good off of him,” Zavala said. “I don't know what it was yet, but we'll look into that. Kopech has been good all year. I'm not putting too much into his outing today. He'll be back. Next outing he'll be just fine."

In an attempt for a fourth homer in the eighth, Zavala singled to right. He needed two hitters to get on in the ninth for one more chance.

“If he got one more at-bat, we kind of expected him to hit the fourth home run,” Keuchel said. “I couldn’t be happier for him and the work he’s put in, not only in the box tonight, but behind home plate. He definitely deserved that. I hope he keeps doing it.”