Mavs' Dunigan smacks three homers

Day after teammate cycles, outfielder makes his own history

Joe Dunigan had a three-homer game at High Desert in May 2009. (Ken Weisenberger/

By Andrew Pentis / Special to | August 25, 2011 9:35 PM ET

Left-handed Joe Dunigan sent three baseballs over the outfield fence -- toward left-center, left and center field -- on Thursday night, and all three originated from the palm of a left-handed hurler.

For this, he credits one man not named Joe.

"It started before the game," he said of his same-handed success. "I got to get some BP against a lefty. [Batting coach] Tommy Cruz was throwing to us. His arm had been hurting, so he hadn't thrown to us as much lately. That helped my approach at the plate."

An embattled prospect recently sent down, Dunigan registered the second three-homer game of his career Thursday in the Class A Advanced Mavericks' 8-2 victory over the Visalia Rawhide.

His return to the history books came a day after teammate Denny Almonte completed the cycle in a 13-6 win over the Rawhide. He drove in four runs in the process.

The Mariners' fifth-round draftee in 2007 last went yard three times in one game during the best season of his career. Playing for High Desert against Inland Empire on May 9, 2009, Dunigan collected four total hits and plated a career-high seven runs. The University of Oklahoma product recorded six multi-homer games and 30 dingers overall that year.

Dunigan is the 17th Minor Leaguer to hit three homers in one game this season. High Desert's Dennis Raben accomplished the feat opposing Lake Elsinore on June 12.

Dunigan, who was assigned from Double-A Jackson to Class A Advanced High Desert on July 31, led off the second inning (on a slider) and fourth inning (fastball) with longballs against Rawhide left-handed starter David Holmberg.

"I saw he was throwing a slider to [James] McOwen in an earlier at-bat," the 25-year-old slugger said of his first homer. "So I sat on the slider, he threw it with two strikes, and I was looking for it.

"[Holmberg] did a good job of keeping the ball down. My approach was to to stay on top of ball, not pull off the ball. I wouldn't even call those two pitches mistakes. I stayed on 'em."

Dunigan collected his third homer -- Visalia's broadcaster Donny Baarns called the two-run shot the most impressive he had seen at Recreation Park in 2011 -- off of another lefty, reliever Michael Belfiore.

"It was a fastball away, another two-strike pitch," Dunigan said. "I didn't really watch it that long, but it was pretty hit well."

He led off again in the eighth, but struck out against Belfiore in his final plate appearance.

Dunigan, who served mainly as Jackson's DH earlier this season but has been slotted at first base in four straight games for High Desert, struggled mightily in his second Double-A try. He batted .217 and struck out in 81 of his 172 at-bats. Before being sent down, he collected two hits in his final 16 at-bats with the Generals.

Over these past two games, he is 6-for-9 with four homers and nine RBIs. Who does he credit? The batting coach, of course.

"Me and Tommy have been working on staying closed, not pulling my front shoulder out, which is what I was doing when I got here," Dunigan said. "The last couple of days, I have been feeling a lot better, not only in the games, but my approach in BP."

Danny Carroll hit High Desert's fourth homer, going deep against Holmberg in the second. Holmberg (3-5) allowed five runs on five hits over five innings. The lefty walked four and fanned six.

Mavericks starter Jandy Sena (3-4) gave up a run on six hits over six innings. He struck out three.

Reliever Austin Hudson yielded a run on two hits over the game's final three frames to earn his fifth save.

Andrew Pentis is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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