Here are 10 moments from May that reminded us baseball is great
May was here, May has gone, let's remember all the best home ... rons? Sorry, I'm not a poet.
Regardless of my poor verse, the month of May was a fantastic one for the sport of baseball. Let's celebrate all that goodness with the ten best moments that remind us of that.
10. Kris Bryant hits his face. With a ball. Let me explain.
Kris Bryant is known for hitting home runs. It's kind of his thing. After hitting 43 home runs in the Minors last year and roughly a billion more during Spring Training, expectations were high when Bryant made his debut on April 17. While Bryant showed why he was arguably the top prospect in the game, spraying plenty of doubles around the park, the rookie phenom didn't actually hit his first home run until his 21st game on May 9. Going into the last day of the month, Bryant hit .303/.385/.621 with six more dingers since then.
That includes the time when he literally smashed a home run into his own face -- kind of.
Trailing the Nationals, 2-1, on May 26, Bryant blasted this 477-foot home run square into his own face on the jumbotron:
Was this subtle social commentary about the nature of virtual reality and the onrushing uncanny valley of robotic baseball players? Was this a metaphor for the need to "destroy" our identities as we move from child to adult? Or was it simply a ballplayer smashing another dinger in a month filled with them?
Perhaps we'll never know.
9. Jason Kipnis does not make outs
The month of April was not kind to Jason Kipnis. When the calendar turned over to May, Cleveland's second baseman was hitting just .218/.263/.287 with one home run and five RBIs.
May has been a bit kinder.
The second baseman has been a big part of the Indians' resurgence (we'll get to one of the other reasons later ...), hitting .429 in the month of May with four home runs, 15 doubles and three triples.
That includes two four-hit games and a game-winning home run against the Rangers:
Whatever he's doing, he should keep it up:
8. Bob Uecker gets trapped in the broadcast booth
No, this isn't the sequel to an R. Kelly song (though, man, can you imagine if it was?), but there's no announcer who we'd rather see get trapped in the broadcast booth. Wait, that came out wrong. What I'm trying to say is that the best Bob Uecker is one that has been imprisoned against his will.
No, wait. All I'm trying to say is that if any announcer had to get trapped with a repairman on a ladder coming to get him out, I'm glad that it was the greatest self-deprecating comedian in the game. Because he at least kept it amusing.
Is Uecker going to climb down? pic.twitter.com/jbiA2K3IBn- Andrew Gruman (@AndrewGruman) May 7, 2015
While trapped, the broadcaster said:
Of course, this was only two weeks after Uecker had offered a full-body wax to help the Brewers get off a losing streak, so perhaps this was simply karmic retribution.
7. The Astros just keep on winning.
The 2015 Astros are like "Pitch Perfect:" Amusing, fun and finding success that's wildly unexpected. After all, just as it's strange that a team without a winning record since 2008 is leading the American League in wins, so too was it odd that a film about an acapella group spawned a sequel that beat "Mad Max" at the box office.
And while the Astros were a fun story in the month of April, now that the've been able to extend their hot start to the end of May, it's time to admit that they may just be for real. While it took a while for PECOTA to come around, Baseball Prospectus now gives Houston a 61 percent chance of reaching the postseason -- the highest ranking in the American League.
Led by the bearded wonder Dallas Keuchel, who leads the league with a 1.76 ERA and two complete games, the team has seen plenty of homers fly off the bats of George Springer, Evan Gattis and the surprising Luis Valbuena. Oh yeah, and there's that Jose Altuve guy who is pretty OK at baseball, I guess.
The Astros are the kind of team that doesn't just turn double plays, they turn triple plays:
One of the reasons that I didn't mention, but has been equally important:
6. Jake Marisnick plays some nifty defense
Listen, don't get us wrong, George Springer is a pretty fancy defender. But one of our favorite things to watch over the last month has been the play of Jake Marisnick in center field. With blazing speed running down baseballs, lithe grace as he glides across the grass, and rocket booster-like thrust as runs up mountains and/or Tal's Hill, Marisnick has been a revelation.
Even Collin McHugh can barely fathom it.
And when Marisnick doesn't need to dive for balls, he simply takes summer strolls for double plays:
The point is, just don't hit it near Marisnick if you want to get on base.
5. Josh Hamilton's triumphant return to Texas
A difficult year for Hamilton saw the outfielder traded back to the Rangers, for whom he hit 142 home runs for and picked up an MVP Award along the way. It looks to have been the best thing for Hamilton.
In his first game back in front of the Arlington fans, Hamilton received a standing ovation. With the crowd cheering him on, Hamilton slashed a double, adding a single and RBI later in the game.
(While the signs are nice, they could use more punnage. Like "Green, Eggs and Hamilton," "Hit 'em with a Hamilton of bricks," and a mash-up of Alexander Hamilton and Josh Hamilton. Next time, I guess.)
The next day, Hamilton did a bit better, smashing two home runs.
And on the final day of the month, the outfielder was at it once again, hitting a walk-off double to beat the Red Sox.
Yes, he certainly finds the Texas weather agreeable.
4. Noah Syndergaard comes to the Majors, proves that he has all the powers of Thor
Rich in pitching talent and pitchers who love to hit, the Mets called up their latest rotation stalwart on May 12 after he went 3-0 with a 1.82 ERA in five Las Vegas starts. Nicknamed Thor for his long blonde hair and Nordic last name, Syndergaard is doing all he can to live up to the nickname.
After hitting a home run during an eight-inning start before his callup, Syndergaard made sure he went deep before his first month in the Majors was out. The rookie hurler bashed out a dinger on May 27 against the Phillies -- and it was no cheap shot, either. This was a dead-center blast.
As for his performance on the mound -- you know, the job he was hired for -- Syndergaard is doing pretty well there, too. He's posted a 2.52 ERA in four starts with a 147 ERA+. Not a bad first month in the Majors.
3. Giancarlo Stanton homers out of Dodger Stadium
May has been a weird month for Giancarlo Stanton. Leading the league in RBIs and strikeouts, Stanton picked up only 20 hits for the month, but nine of those left the park. Though there were plenty of impressive options, including some opposite-field jacks that only Giancarlo can hit, his best was at Dodger Stadium.
Facing Mike Bolsinger, Giancarlo Stanton drove the pitch 475 feet, clear out of the stadium's confines and straight into the Dodgers parking lot.
Joining a shortlist of only three other players to pull off the feat, this is just proof that he laws of physics do not apply to Stanton. Because I'm pretty sure gravity is supposed to make something like this impossible.
2. Corey Kluber's got his groove back
One year after winning the AL Cy Young, it looked like all of Kluber's luck had been used up. Or that the Klubot's operating system was out of date. Or that Kluber had forgotten that the Indians fans wanted a pitcher and not a belly-itcher. Through his first seven starts, the right-hander was 0-5 with a 5.04 ERA despite a strong 46/11 K/BB rate.
Everything changed on May 13. Facing the Cardinals, Kluber went eight innings, surrendering one hit and striking out 18 batters. That's not a typo -- he struck out the legal voting age.
Here's what the first six looked like in rapid succession:
But the MODOK (Mechanized Organism Designed Only for K-ing) wasn't done. In his next outing, he struck out 12, including the first five that he faced. He would make two more starts in May, combining for 15 innings and 20 strikeouts. All told, over his last four starts, Kluber has an absolutly insane 50/2 K/BB rate and a 1.41 ERA.
So, yeah, no reason to worry. The Klubot has been upgraded. And may all flesh and blood mortal batters quiver in the presence of this wonder of modern robotics.
1. Bryce Harper stops doing anything but hitting home runs
You may not realize it, but Bryce Harper is only 22 years old. If he was in college, he would likely have just picked up his cap and gown a few weeks ago. He is also the fourth-youngest hitter in the Majors, with only Dilson Herrera, Rougned Odor and Addison Russell clocking in with earlier birthdays.
And yet, there was a feeling among some pundits that Harper had not lived up to his early promise. Needless to say, that's not so much the case any more.
As May comes to a close, Harper leads the league in runs, home runs and walks, on-base percentage, slugging and total bases. It's been quite the season.
Starting with a three home run game on May 6, Harper hit a total of 13 dingers through the end of the month, tying him with Vlad Guerrero for most in a month by an Expo/National.
That included a walk-off with one of the best bat flips possible:
And a home run that apparently wasn't homerific enough, leading to him throwing his bat down in disgust.
What's in store for June? Will a hitter blast a ball into low orbit? Will a pitcher strike out more batters than there are outs in a game? Will our hopes and dreams intersect on the diamond? Anything's possible.