Memorial Day has come and gone, and the days are getting warmer.Right on cue, the home runs in Major League Baseball have begun flying at a dizzying pace.Major League hitters combined for 1,060 home runs in May -- the second-highest monthly total in history -- and followed up with a
Memorial Day has come and gone, and the days are getting warmer.
Right on cue, the home runs in Major League Baseball have begun flying at a dizzying pace.
Major League hitters combined for 1,060 home runs in May -- the second-highest monthly total in history -- and followed up with a homer barrage over the first weekend of June. Records were set, games were won and lost, and many a pitcher was left shaking his head when all was said and done.
A total of seven hitters clubbed a grand slam on Saturday to set an MLB single-day record. That was a tough act to beat, but Sunday's slate tried its best as a total of five players homered twice. The barrage began in the early afternoon when Andrew Benintendi clubbed a pair of fourbaggers to support Chris Sale in Boston's 7-3 victory over Baltimore, and Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis eked out homers from both sides of the plate -- each hit with exit velocity and launch angle combos that Statcast™ says go for home runs less than 50 percent of the time -- in the Phillies' 9-7 triumph over the Giants.
"Two good swings on the ball, two homers," Galvis said.
Zack Cozart knocked a pair of balls over the fence in the Reds' 13-8 loss to the Braves in Cincinnati. With nine home runs on the season, Cozart has already tallied more than half of his homer output (16) from last year while posting a .344 average that ranks second among MLB hitters.
"I don't think I have to be biased, I think I have to be realistic," Reds manager Bryan Price said of his shortstop. "Realistically, nobody is playing the position better than he is -- without question."
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The trio of multi-homer efforts from the early Sunday games was impressive, but that wasn't all. In Houston, the Astros rolled off their 10th win in a row and completed a big sweep of the rival Rangers in a 7-2 victory. Three of those runs were driven home by George Springer, who hit two solo shots to give him seven homers in his past eight games. Springer began with his Major League-leading sixth leadoff home run on the seventh pitch of the game, then followed up with another blast in the fourth to lead the Astros to a huge win in Arlington.
"There's no real secret," Springer said of his red-hot run. "Just trying to hit the ball hard, stay within myself and get on base for the guys up behind me."
Sunday's first four multi-homer efforts came from established names, but the nightcap came from a youngster announcing himself on the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball stage. That would be Cubs rookie outfielder Ian Happ, who smashed the third and fourth home runs of his career in Chicago's 7-6 win over the rival Cardinals.
Sunday's homer-happy action was the perfect follow-up to the history made a day before. In Chicago, Kyle Schwarber's grand slam proved to be the decisive blast in the Cubs' 5-3 victory over the Cardinals. Travis Shaw hit a grand slam to give Milwaukee a 7-4 lead over the Dodgers in the seventh, only to be answered by Chris Taylor's 430-foot go-ahead slam in the top of the ninth that ultimately gave Los Angeles a wild 10-8 win.
"When it got to two strikes, I just shortened up and wanted to put one in play in the outfield. He left one over the middle and I put a good swing on it," Taylor said. "That's the funny thing -- sometimes, the best swing is the two-strike swing, your batting-practice swing, when you don't have a tendency to do more, because that's when you get in trouble."
No slam was more momentous or memorable, of course, than the one hit by the Angels' Jose Pujols on Saturday night in Anaheim. With one towering blast -- his second-highest of the Statcast™ Era with a 42 degree launch angle -- Pujols became just the ninth player in MLB history to reach 600 career home runs. Pujols began a club of his own as the only one to hit his 600th roundtripper with the bases loaded.
"Sometimes, as player, we are human; you try to do too much," Pujols said, "but really in that at-bat I was really calm. I didn't know I was going to hit it out, but I knew I was going to have a good at-bat, because it was a different feeling than the first two at-bats that I had."
Entering Sunday's games, MLB teams were averaging a record 1.23 home runs per contest and are showing no signs of letting up. If 2017 becomes known as "The Year of the Home Run," we may look back at the first weekend of June as the point in which baseballs really began flying.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.