The best, wildest (Grimace!) and everything in between from June

June 30th, 2024

While the regular season began in late March this year, it is simple to think of it broken up into six one-month segments. So, while all teams now have made it through half their schedule, now that we're at the end of June, three of those six one-month segments are over.

We're halfway there. June is a pivotal month, a sneakily pivotal one at that: For all that comes with the Trade Deadline at the end of July, June is when the groundwork is laid. June lets you know what the stakes are, for the rest of the year.

As always, we finish with a look back at the month that was … and then a peek forward.

Team That Doesn't Want This Month to End: Mets

Credit the bats coming alive, credit the big Francisco Lindor team meeting, credit Grimace, credit Jose Iglesias' musical stylings. Credit whoever you want, but the Mets turned their whole season around in June. One June 2, the Mets were 24-35, being openly mocked in the tabloids and dealing with a string of gut-wrenching losses that had their fans ripping their hair out. Other teams were licking their lips for a possibility to trade for some Mets at the Deadline. And then … the Mets simply became the best team in baseball. They went 16-4 over their next 20 games through Friday, turning a wild walk-off win in London into a hot streak that has them back in the thick of the NL Wild Card chase. It has been the youngsters who have led them: Francisco Alvarez and Mark Vientos have been fantastic all month. Which means this might just be the beginning for them.

Team That Is Eager For the Calendar to Turn: Blue Jays

There are teams with worse records than the Jays this month. But no team's fortunes may have changed in June more than the Blue Jays. Toronto was two games under .500 heading into June, which was a disappointment but clearly laid out the assignment: If they were going to save their season -- and really this era of Blue Jays contention -- they needed to have a great month. They have not had a great month. A seven-game losing streak from June 17-24 was an absolute killer. Before that skid, the Jays thought they could make a run. After that skid? Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette were at the center of countless trade rumors. The Jays have had worse records in previous months. But June 2024 might have been the most painful month for them in years.

Play of the Month: Luis Torrens walks it off in London

The Mets were one inning away from getting swept in the London Series and heading back to the States miserable and beaten. But then they scored three runs in the top of the ninth to take the lead … but the fun stuff was yet to come. With the bases loaded, one out, Mets up 6-5 in the bottom of the ninth, the Phillies' Nick Castellanos hit a ball right in front of home plate. Backup catcher Luis Torrens leapt out, picked up the ball, tagged home plate and fired to first to pull off a wild, chaotic double play, the sort of double play you hardly ever see. You almost wanted to explain to our British friends: That doesn't usually happen.

Best Single-Game Performance: DJ Herz comes out of nowhere

DJ Herz, MLB Pipeline's No. 12 Nationals prospect, made his MLB debut on June 4 and lost to the Mets. He was a little better in his next start against the Braves, but he still only threw 4 1/3 innings, giving up two runs. Which is why what happened next was so amazing. Against the Marlins on June 15, Herz was essentially unhittable, striking out 13 in six innings, giving up only one hit. He was actually perfect through four innings. "It doesn't feel real," Herz said afterward. "It's an awesome feeling." While he has given up eight runs in a combined seven innings in his two starts since then, that performance had the highest game score by a Nationals pitcher in more than three years -- since a Max Scherzer outing in May 2021.

Wildest Game: Yamamoto gears up vs. Yanks

It might be a little wistful for Dodgers fans to look back at this one, since Yoshinobu Yamamoto would go on the IL a little more than a week later. But he was magnificent against the Yankees on June 7 in the Bronx, in an extremely high-profile game between two of the best teams in baseball, and two of its signature franchises. Yamamoto threw seven scoreless innings, but the game was still tied heading into the 11th, when Teoscar Hernández had the game-winning hit. "Wow, what a game," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said afterwards. It was impossible to argue with him.

Best Player to Make His MLB Debut: Daniel Schneemann, Guardians

The Guardians' utilityman was called up on June 2, and from then through Friday, he posted a .354 OBP, with two homers and 10 RBIs in his first 20 MLB games. That's excellent, particularly for a guy who is 27 years old and has already bounced around the Minors for six years since being Cleveland's 33rd-round Draft pick in 2018. But the best part about Schneemann? He has such versatility that he played six positions -- second, short, left, third, center and right -- in his first six games!

Player of the Game Winner: Jarren Duran, Red Sox (7)
The Red Sox may have turned a corner in June -- they reached a season-high seven games over .500 on June 24 -- and Duran was a clear reason why. He has been electric start to finish in June, hitting .366 for the month entering Saturday. He also had four homers, two triples, seven doubles and nine steals to that point. Even more so: He established himself as one of the most purely enjoyable players to watch in baseball. He has made the Red Sox must-watch in a way they haven't been in far too long.

All-Star Squad of the Month

With key June stats through Friday's games.

C: Adley Rutschman, Orioles -- .307 BA, .880 OPS, 18 RBIs
1B:  Bryce Harper, Phillies -- .452 OBP, .714 SLG, 7 HR
2B:  Ketel Marte, D-backs -- 1.057 OPS, 7 HR, 19 RBIs
SS:  Gunnar Henderson, Orioles -- 1.123 OPS, 8 HR, 30 R
3B:  Royce Lewis, Twins -- .654 SLG, 9 HR, 15 RBIs
OF:  Aaron Judge, Yankees -- 1.352 OPS, 10 HR, 34 RBIs
OF:  Steven Kwan, Guardians -- .378 BA, .446 OBP, .610 SLG
OF:  Bryan Reynolds, Pirates -- .351 BA, 1.040 OPS, 6 HR
DH:  Shohei Ohtani, Dodgers -- .722 SLG, 11 HR, 23 RBIs
Utility:  Carlos Correa, Twins -- .394 BA, 1.045 OPS, 21 RBIs

SP:  Paul Skenes, Pirates -- 1.85 ERA, 31 K's in 24 1/3 IP
SP:  Garrett Crochet, White Sox -- 1.76 ERA, 45 K's in 30 2/3 IP
SP:  Hunter Brown, Astros -- 1.16 ERA, 36 K's in 31 IP
SP:  Matt Waldron, Padres -- 1.95 ERA, 18 H in 32 1/3 IP
SP:  Tobias Myers, Brewers -- 0.71 ERA, 13 H, 25 1/3 IP
RP:  Trevor Megill, Brewers -- 0.73 ERA, 9 SV in 12 1/3 IP
RP: Carlos Estévez, Angels -- 0.00 ERA, 8 SV in 9 IP

Three Teams To Watch Closely In July

1. Giants: They were aggressive in free agency this past offseason, but two of the biggest signings haven't worked out. Blake Snell has been hurt and ineffective, and Jung Hoo Lee has been hurt. There have been some positives (Jordan Hicks and Matt Chapman), but on the whole, the Giants have been spinning their wheels. The middling NL Wild Card race has allowed them to maintain hope, but July starts with a tough road trip to Atlanta and Cleveland, with a four-game set against the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine from July 22-25. This could get away from them if they don't get off to a good start next month … and that could lead to them changing course as the Trade Deadline approaches.

2. Pirates: They are an odd team, in that they have three fantastic starting pitchers -- including one who should probably start the All-Star Game in Paul Skenes -- who would be absolutely deadly to face in a playoff series, but the offense isn't there yet and might not get there this season at all. Two of those pitchers, Skenes and Jared Jones, are also so young that the Pirates might not want to push them to throw too many innings. But. If the Pirates are still in the Wild Card race -- and they are as of now -- and they could have those pitchers lined up for a Wild Card Series (and it's possible it'd be the best 1-2-3 in baseball at that point), don't they have to give a shot? Don't they have to play it out? We'll see how close they are by the All-Star break. There's real excitement in Pittsburgh. How much will they steer into it?

3. Rays: They have the worst run differential of any contending team in baseball, but they've overperformed enough to be able to hang around .500 and thus in shouting distance of an AL Wild Card spot. But does the front office really think this team, with this pitching, is a contender? If they don't, the Rays could be doing some real dealing at the Deadline. A six-game road trip to Kansas City and Texas in the month's first week could be what points them in whatever direction they go.