Hitting for the cycle is an accomplishment for any hitter, but doing it in as few pitches as Matt McLain did it on Sunday adds to the impressiveness of the feat.
“I was just trying to get my pitch in my spot and hit it hard and I got to do that a couple times today,” said McLain over the phone following the game. “It was just fun. Playing baseball is fun.”
The fourth-ranked Reds prospect wasted no time taking care of the biggest leg of the cycle, hitting a two-run shot to left field on the first pitch he saw. McLain’s third homer of the season retook the lead for the Lookouts after White Sox No. 4 prospect Yoelqui Céspedes hit a solo home run in the top of the first.
In the third inning, McLain singled up the middle after taking a strike, pushing his count of pitches seen to three. He led off the fifth inning by blasting the first pitch to the warning track in left-center field for a double, scoring two batters later on Isiah Gilliam’s single.
McLain’s final at-bat was his longest of the day. He took a called strike one, let a pitch in the dirt go, and then crushed the 1-1 offering off the wall in left-center for an RBI triple, finishing off his efficient cycle.
“I was for sure thinking three. I didn’t think it was going to go out, I thought it was going to hit off the tall walls out there,” said McLain. “I would’ve been thinking three out of the box if it was the first at-bat of the day.”
Céspedes launched his second home run of the game in the eighth inning, a three-run shot that brought the Barons within a run, but the Lookouts would hold on to earn their fifth win of the season.
In his debut season last year, McLain came close to hitting for the cycle on Aug. 11. He went 4-for-5 for High-A Dayton, finishing a triple shy and driving in a career-best five runs.
Through eight games this season, McLain has a .344/.400/.875 slash line with a 1.275 OPS. Nine of his 11 hits have gone for extra bases and he’s stolen two bases, showcasing the all-around talent that made him the No. 17 selection in the 2021 Draft.
“I’m just trying to stay in my zone, stay within myself and continue to hit the ball hard. That’s all I can do and the rest takes care of itself,” said McLain. “I want to continue to hit the ball hard, field the ball better, steal more bags and just get better as a player every single day.”
McLain needed just 31 games in 2021 to give the Reds the confidence to start him at Double-A this season. In 29 High-A games and two Rookie games, he totaled 30 hits, 12 extra-base hits, 19 RBIs, 17 walks and 10 steals with an .851 OPS. If he continues mashing as he has through his first 39 career games, McLain will continue to rise quickly through the Reds’ system.
“We have a lot of good guys with the Reds, a lot of good teammates, a lot of good people around the organization, so it’s fun coming to the ballpark every day,” said McLain. “Getting a chance to play the game I love and continuing to get better, it’s fun.”