This May has been a month filled with promotions, promotions and more promotions. Three players were called up from the minors, but two have been sent back down. There were five players that were demoted, and four of those players were called up. April was a boring month by all accounts, but May has been filled with all kinds of interesting stories. Here are the May MLB Quirkjians.
The Mariners made the trade of recent trade acquisition Ryan Anderson, and longtime Mariner Griffey, to the Mets for catcher Carlos Torres, and pitcher Josh Anderson, all in a bid to address their lack of power in the middle of the lineup. This is a good move by the front office, and hopefully this buy and sell of two veteran players will allow the Mariners to improve their chances at contending for a playoff spot in the American League.
This month has been quite an unusual one for Major League Baseball, with the Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays making quick exits from the AL and NL Wild Card races, respectively. So let’s take a look at the pitcher who have been the most notable performers for each league, plus some noteworthy performances from the rookies and journeymen of May.
May began with two Mays pitching. The month also included the 90th birthday for Willie Mays. And that is just the beginning — because there was plenty of wild, weird and wacky. Here are The Quirkjians for May. May 1 Dodgers pitcher Justin May made his first appearance ever in a game in the month of May (he hurt his arm, and went on the IL). Mets reliever Trevor May got a victory. They are two of 16 players with the last name May who have appeared in a big league game. The only other player with a last name the same as a month is former Brewers pitcher Don August. He was 5-3 in August in his career. Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports The White Sox’s Tim Anderson hit a grand slam, ending a streak of 15 home runs with no one on base. It was the longest streak of only solo home runs since Cameron Maybin, in 2018-20, had 16 straight. May 2 The Brewers’ Alec Bettinger became the first pitcher to give up a grand slam in each of the first two innings of his major league debut. Jim Palmer threw 3,948 innings in his career and never gave up a grand slam. Neither did Gary Peters (2,081 IP) or Joaquin Andujar (2,153), but they each hit one. Indians outfielder Daniel Johnson went 0-for-5 with five strikeouts. It was the third time that a player has had five strikeouts in a game this year. It happened twice last season. The last season in which there were three individual five-strikeout games through May 2 was 2018, when there were four, two by Giancarlo Stanton. May 3 The Cardinals hit a three-run homer (this one by Nolan Arenado) for the fifth straight game. In the expansion era, the only two teams to hit a three-run home run (or a grand slam) in six straight games are the 1996 Tigers and the 1981 Orioles. Earl Weaver managed that Orioles team. He used to say teams win with “pitching, defense and three-run homers.” May 4 Braves pitcher Huascar Ynoa hit a grand slam, the second start in a row in which he had homered. The record for consecutive starts by a pitcher with a home run is four by Ken Brett in 1973. The same day, in his first at-bats in pro ball, White Sox pitcher Dylan Cease went 3-for-3, meaning he had a three-hit game this season before Mookie Betts or D.J. LeMahieu, among others. The last time a pitcher hit a grand slam and another pitcher had three hits on the same day (and the pitcher had to pitch that day, not pinch hit) was in 1950, when Erv Palica hit a grand slam and Ned Garver had three hits. 2 Related May 5 Nationals reliever Kyle Finnegan recorded the first immaculate inning of the year: nine pitches, three strikeouts. The Indians’ Zach Plesac was the only pitcher to accomplish the feat last year. May 7 The Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts, but scored two runs. His final batting line was 4-2-0-0 with four strikeouts. The only player since 1900 to have a 4-2-0-0 line with four strikeouts was Frank Baumholtz in 1947. May 8 And for fans of “The Office,” the pitchers of record in the Nationals-Yankees game were Tanner Rainey and Justin Wilson, or Rainey Wilson. But that’s not as good as when Chuck Rainey and Mark Clear — Rainey and Clear — pitched in the same bullpen for the Red Sox in the 1980s. May 9 Nationals reliever Sam Clay faced the Yankees’ Clint Frazier for a Clay vs. Frazier at-bat (even though there was no such boxing match). It didn’t end in a TKO. It ended with a GIDP. May 10 The Mets’ Patrick Mazeika won the game with a walk-off infield fielder’s choice, making him the first player in at least 100 years to have two walk-off plate appearances (the other was also a fielder’s choice) before he got his first major league hit. For comparison, Norm Cash, Rich Gedman, Ron Kittle and Jackie Bradley Jr. had combined for 3,975 hits and no walk-off RBIs of any kind. The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani joined Sam McDowell (1970) and Harvey Haddix (1952) as the only players in history to have 10 strikeouts in a game in which they played a position other than pitcher. McDowell moved to second base (he is left-handed) with two outs in the bottom of the eighth so he didn’t have to face the Senators’ Frank Howard, who hit him well. McDowell actually got a putout at second base on a fielder’s choice to end the eighth, returned to the mound in the ninth and struck out the side for the victory. Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images May 13 The Rockies’ Connor Joe recorded the first RBI of his career. In his honor, here is the All-Common-First-Name-Used-As-Last-Name Team: C: Josh Paul. 1B: Connor Joe. 2B: Pete Rose. 3B: George Brett. SS: Gene Michael. OF: Hank Aaron. OF: Babe Ruth. OF: Luis Robert. Utility: Ka’ai Tom. DH: Frank Thomas. RHP: Nolan Ryan. LHP: Tommy John. Manager: Billy Martin. May 14 The Rockies’ Daulton Varsho played center field, right field and catcher in a 17-2 loss to the Nationals. He became the first player to catch and play center field in the same game since Andrew Romine on Sept. 30, 2017. But Romine played all positions that day as a stunt, a tribute to his versatility. The last player before then to catch and play center field in the same game was Brandon Inge in 2008. May 15 Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta joined Brian Dozier, Jose Reyes and Brian Bogusevic as the only players in the past 15 years to hit a home run in the game after one in which they gave up a home run. Somewhat related, and even more impressive, on July 26, 2015, Cubs catcher David Ross pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning against the Phillies, then hit a home run in the bottom of the ninth. In Milwaukee, the Braves’ Ian Anderson beat the Brewers’ Brett Anderson, with the TV call by Brewers broadcaster Brian Anderson. May 16 The Reds beat the Rockies 7-6, coming from a run down in the top of the ninth, winning on a run-scoring wild pitch and a run-scoring passed ball. The last time a team, trailing by a run in the ninth, scored two runs in the inning to win on a wild pitch or a passed ball (or two wild pitches) was July 14, 1973, when the Angels’ Dave Sells wild-pitched home Ike Brown and Eddie Brinkman to give the Tigers a 2-1 win. Padres pitchers were hitless in their past 40 at-bats when pitcher Ryan Weathers ended that with his first major league hit. Later in the game, infielder Ivan Castillo, also hitting out of the No. 9 spot, recorded his first major league hit. May 17 A reminder that former White Sox outfielder Carlos May was born on this date in 1948. He wore No. 17 for most of his career. So, on the back of his uniform was his birthday: May 17. The White Sox’s Yasmani Grandal walked four times, and wound up with this batting line: 0-3-0-1. The last player to have that batting line, with four walks, was the Angels’ Brian Downing against the White Sox in 1988. May 18 Tigers rookie catcher Eric Haase, in his 26th game behind the plate in his major league career, caught Spencer Turnbull’s no-hitter. Tony Pena holds the record for most games caught in major league history (1,950) without catching a no-hitter. Mets pitcher Tommy Hunter recorded his first major league hit. It came in his 14th season. The only pitchers ever to go at least 14 years into a career before getting their first hit were Frank Tanana (21st season in 1993) and Chuck Finley (17th season in 2002). Hunter said, “That was the coolest thing that’s happened in my career, I got a knock in The Show.” When he got to first base, he was congratulated by Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman. Hunter said he was so excited, “I don’t even know what I said.” May 19 The Rangers’ Corey Kluber pitched the sixth no-hitter of the season, meaning there have been more no-hitters through seven weeks of the season than there were during the 1982-85 seasons combined (five). Mets outfielder Khalil Lee struck out in his first eight plate appearances in the major leagues, the first position player ever to do that. Different era, different game. In Hall of Famer Joe Sewell’s final two seasons, he had 1,182 plate appearances — and struck out seven times. May 20 The Reds’ Jesse Winker hit three home runs, the fifth player this year to hit three homers in a game. The record for most individual three-homer games in a season is 22, set in 2001 and 2019. The Braves beat the Pirates 20-1. So, in Atlanta’s Ian Anderson’s last two starts, the winning and losing pitcher in each game was named Anderson, first Brett, and then Tyler, and both times Ian. Albert Pujols hit his first home run as a Dodger. The Diamondbacks’ Merrill Kelly became the 433rd pitcher to yield a home run to Pujols. We looked at the last names of all 433, and here are 10 connective names: Fisher-Price, Nova-Cain, King-George, Benjamin-Franklin, Lincoln-Kennedy, Carroll-Burnett, Dull-Gray, Lilly-Meadows, Diamond-Sale, Henn-Gobble. May 23 The White Sox’s Grandal took the AL lead in walks with Nos. 36 and 37. He finished the game against the Yankees with a .141 average. The only player ever to finish a full season with at least 35 walks and a batting average under .150 was Henry Easterday in 1890. No player has ever walked 100 times with an average under .200. The closest was Adam Dunn, who hit .204 and walked 105 times for the White Sox in 2012. May 24 In a 14-5 victory over the Blue Jays, the Rays became the first team in history to score five runs in the first inning of a game, then nine runs in extra innings. In fact, no team has ever scored five runs in the first inning of a game and five runs in extra innings. May 25 The Angels’ Justin Upton’s 316th home run was his first career leadoff home run. Eddie Mathews holds the major league record for most home runs (435) before his first leadoff homer. Upton’s brother, B.J., hit 11 leadoff homers. May 26 The day after Justin Upton hit his first career leadoff homer, he hit his second. The last Angel to hit a leadoff homer in back-to-back games was Mike Trout in 2012. May 27 Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. made his 13th and 14th errors of the season. He has 13 homers. He became the first player since Troy Glaus in 2000 to have a dozen homers (16) and a dozen errors (13) before Memorial Day. The complete list, homers first: Dean Palmer (13-13 in 1998), Mike Schmidt (12-14 in 1984), Tony Perez (18-14 in 1970), Harmon Killebrew (18-12 in 1959) and Rogers Hornsby (12-13 in 1925). May 29 Orioles first baseman Tyler Nevin made his major-league debut. It was his birthday. He hit a double. The Elias Sports Bureau confirmed that a player has made his major-league debut on his birthday “many, many times,” which came as a surprise. Shane Bieber did so in 2018. Foster Griffin did so last year.
A whole month’s worth of oddities
There were four no-hitters during a 14-game stretch in May. There were five no-hitters from 1982 to 1985 combined. The Yankees went until May 17 before they hit their first triple of the year. It was hit by Brett Gardner. It came in their 40th game. The only teams in history that have gone longer into a season without a triple were the 1982 Giants (41 games), the 2019 Marlins (52) and the 2019 Indians (54). Cardinals second baseman Tommy Edman played every inning of every game in May. He played every inning in April, too. Through May 27, he had played all 451 innings that the Cardinals have played this year. Cal Ripken Jr. is the record holder with 8,264 consecutive innings played. Brewers pitchers hit two homers in May. The catchers for the Orioles and Angels hit zero homers in May. The second basemen for the Cubs and Diamondbacks hit zero home runs in May. The A’s do not have a home run from a shortstop all season. The Rays do not have a home run from a first baseman all season. The Diamondbacks’ Tim Locastro was hit by a pitch three times in May, a relatively painless month for him. But it gave him 33 in his career in 447 plate appearances. Hank Aaron was hit 32 times in his career in 13,941 plate appearances. There were seven games in May in which a starting pitcher had allowed no runs, had no walks and struck out 10. There were eight such starts all last season. On May 21, the Yankees’ Jordan Montgomery and the White Sox’s Carlos Rodon had a 10-0-0 start in the same game, the first time in major league history that that has happened. There were 11 home runs in May that traveled at least 460 feet. There were 18 all last season. White Sox manager Tony La Russa’s team won 18 games in May, running his career total to 2,757, six short of John McGraw for second on the all-time list for victories. In May, La Russa managed his first game ever against the Cardinals. Think about that: He managed his first game on Aug. 3, 1979. Tim McCarver, who will turn 80 this year, was an active player in 1979. In La Russa’s first game as a manager, the Blue Jays’ second baseman was Danny Ainge.
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