12/04/2003 3:00 PM ET
Mueller wins MLB.com award
Sox third baseman snares Individual Performance honor
Mueller slams from both sides of the plate
|By Ian Browne / MLB.com
BOSTON -- For the entire season, Bill Mueller exceeded expectations all across baseball en route to the most marvelous season of his career.
And on one steamy night in Texas, Mueller did something unprecedented in the history of Major League Baseball, hitting grand slams from both sides of the plate in one game.
It was July 29 when Mueller accomplished that gaudy feat, lifting the Red Sox to a 14-5 rout over the Rangers. He also established career highs in that game, hitting three homers and driving in nine runs.
For that memorable night, Mueller was selected for the top Individual Performance in MLB.com's This Year in Baseball Awards.
The voting was conducted by fans on MLB.com. Mueller had some stiff competitors.
One of them was teammate Johnny Damon, who remarkably had three hits in one inning of Boston's 25-8 romp over the Marlins on June 28.
Toronto's Carlos Delgado had a standout performance on Sept. 25, becoming the 15th player in Major League history to hit four homers in a game.
Kevin Millwood fired the season's only no-hitter on April 27 against the Giants.
But by the time the voting concluded, Mueller's performance stood out by a large margin.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about Mueller's surreal night was that he didn't realize the magnitude of what he had done until people started filling him in.
As he stood in front of his locker after the game, he had the look of a man who had merely done his job in helping his team win.
Reality quickly set in, as friends from all over the country began phoning him.
"From what I've been hearing, it didn't turn out to be an ordinary night," Mueller said roughly 15 minutes after the game. "My approach to the whole thing is I'm very humbled by it. It's just a night I went out and tried to do what the guys in front of me did, have a good approach, battle, play for nine innings. That's what I was trying to do. Just trying to do my job at the time. Have good at-bats and drive some runs in. I was just fortunate that I got some balls up and they carried out. "
It was a performance that left his teammates in awe.
Said designated hitter David Ortiz: "After the first two homers, I was telling [Pedro Martinez], 'Hey, that's one of the best switch-hitters I've ever seen since I've been playing baseball. He's almost perfect from both sides of the plate.' Then he hit another one, and I was like, 'He's not done yet.'"
The night began innocently enough for Mueller, as he struck a solo homer in the third.
With the Red Sox leading 5-4 in the seventh, Mueller -- batting right-handed -- ripped a grand slam to left.
An inning later, he turned around and culminated his historic night with a grand slam to right.
In a way, the night was symbolic of Mueller's season in that it was above and beyond what anyone imagined.
When the Red Sox signed Mueller to a modest two-year contract in January, he didn't have a starting position. The Sox already had a third baseman, Shea Hillenbrand.
But Mueller got so torrid at the plate that general manager Theo Epstein felt comfortable enough to deal Hillenbrand to the Diamondbacks for Byung-Hyun Kim on May 28.
Third base was Mueller's for the rest of the season, and he did not disappoint. He won the American League batting title with a .326 average and established career highs in hits (171), doubles (45), homers (19) and RBIs (85).
Though Mueller's production was steady over the course of the season, he was a one-man wrecking crew on July 29, producing the game of his life