Wednesday night featured two great performances from the game's best hitter and pitcher, and one of baseball's best defensive players made a play that you'll daydream about during the tedium of your Thursday afternoon. Here's everything you missed in baseball on Wednesday, May 18.
1. Mike Trout continued his torrid hitting
Every year, it feels like Mike Trout can't get any better at baseball. And every year, he seems to improve even before the All-Star Break. The game's best player hit his fifth home run in sixth games during the Angels' 12–8 win over the White Sox on Wednesday night, a three-run shot off of Anthony Swarzak that may not have even been a strike.
Trout is now hitting .341/.451/.752 with 13 home runs over his first 37 games. He's on pace to break his career-high of 41 home runs, which he set in 2015, and is (again) the front-runner for AL MVP. The Angels may be a mediocre franchise, but Trout remains baseball's greatest gift.
2. The Rangers are red-hot
Elsewhere in the AL West, the Rangers have shaken off their rocky start to the season with an eight-game winning streak. Texas is now above .500 for the first time this season, and was anchored by an unlikely source in Jared Hoying. The rookie centerfielder finished 4-for-4 with his first career home run and two runs driven in to aid a strong outing by Andrew Cashner in the Rangers 9–3 win over the Phillies. Delino Deshields Jr. added four hits as well, and Shin-Shoo-Choo finished 3-for-4 to lift a generally sluggish Rangers offense that is still missing star third basemen Adrian Beltre. The game also featured the Major League debut of 32-year-old Austin Bibens-Dirkx, a 12-year minor-league veteran who threw one inning and surrendered one earned run.
After a dreadful start to the season mired by a terrible bullpen, the Rangers are now tied for second place with the Angels, but still trail the Astros by eight games in the AL West.
3. Your NL Central leaders are ... the Brewers?
You read that correctly. While the Cubs still scuff near the .500 mark and the Cardinals cope with continued injuries, the Brewers used a ninth-inning rally to knock off the Padres and move into the top of the NL Central. Milwaukee strung together four consecutive hits off of San Diego reliever Brandon Maurer, and Jett Bandy's ninth-inning RBI single broke a 1–1 deadlock to push the Brewers to a 3–1 win. The win puts Craig Counsell's ballclub at 23–18 and a half-game ahead of the Cardinals, who lost to the Red Sox in 13 innings on Wednesday night.
Widely expected to finish in the NL Central cellar, the Brewers have mostly hit their way to the top of the division. Eric Thames has cooled off in May, but remains near the top of most NL hitting categories with a .315 average and 13 home runs while third basemen Travis Shaw has emerged as a reliable run producer with a .289 average and eight home runs. Add in the unlikely but effective platoon of Jett Bandy and Manny Piña at catcher (Jay Jaffe's April All-Stars at the position) and the typical production from Ryan Braun (seven homers and a .287 average) and the Brew Crew are one of the game's pleasant early-season surprises.
4. Jose Iglesias pulled off some infield wizardry
Jose Iglesias is known to pull off a few plays per year that make you gasp or readjust your eyeglasses. This is one to save for the year-end highlight reel.
The Tigers beat the Orioles 5–4, and can thank Iglesias for his contribution.
5. The Giants still can't hit Clayton Kershaw
The Dodgers and Giants briefly cleared their benches in the second inning after an argument between Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal and Giants starting pitcher Johnny Cueto. Cueto thought Grandal was stealing signs, so the Giants hurler threw a fastball that buzzed the catcher near the helmet. After Grandal grounded out, he and Cueto glared and barked at one another and both benches slowly emptied even if tensions were never that high.
One man who couldn't be bothered by any of the extra-curricular activity was Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw.
Kershaw struck out five and allowed no runs to silence the Giants over seven innings in L.A.'s 6–1 win to avoid a sweep in San Francisco. Kershaw is now 20–9 against the Giants in his career with a 1.62 E.R.A., and he has a 12–4 career record with a 1.29 E.R.A at AT&T Park. The Dodgers ended a season-high three-game losing streak while halting the Giants season-high five-game winning streak. It's good to have the game's best pitcher when the bleeding needs to stop.