Nelson Cruz, baseball’s $8 million man, ends May at 20 HR, 52 RBI

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Nelson Cruz was jobless into the month of February, after spring training had already begun. Cruz had rejected the Rangers’ $14.1 million qualifying offer back in November, and remained unsigned through the winter because of the draft pick compensation to which he was attached. Finally, the Orioles relented, signing him to a one-year, $8 million deal on February 22.

Just over three months later, Cruz is baseball’s home run and RBI leader with 20 and 52, respectively. Cruz ended the month of May with a home run and three runs batted in against the Astros, and is slashing a cool .315/.383/.675. If not for Blue Jays first baseman Edwin Encarnacion, Cruz would be a frontrunner for AL Player of the Month honors, as he has belted 13 home runs and knocked in 27 runs in May. Encarnacion is at 16 and 33 on the month, respectively.

As our own Drew Silva pointed out on Twitter, Cruz is on pace for 60 HR and 156 RBI. Should he keep it up, he would set the Orioles’ club record for RBI in a single season, surpassing Ken Williams’ 155 in 1922 with the St. Louis Browns. Miguel Tejada holds the modern Orioles record with 150 in 2002. Chris Davis drove in 138 last season.

José Ramirez’s 17-pitch at-bat kickstarts Indians’ five-run comeback in ninth inning

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With his team trailing 8-3 to begin the bottom of the ninth inning of Sunday’s game against the Astros, Indians third baseman José Ramirez eventually won a 17-pitch at-bat against closer Ken Giles, ripping a double off of the wall in right field. The Indians would go on to score five runs on seven hits to tie the game against Giles and Hector Rondon. Ramirez almost won the game in his second at-bat of the ninth inning, but first basebamn Yuli Gurriel made a terrific diving catch on a line drive otherwise headed for the right field corner.

Giants first baseman Brandon Belt set a new modern record for the longest at-bat last month, seeing 21 pitches against the Angels’ Jaime Barria. The Astros’ Ricky Gutierrez sfaw 20 pitches from the Indians’ Bartolo Colon on June 26, 1998, which was the previous record. Kevin Bass saw 19 pitches from the Phillies’ Steve Bedrosian in 1988. There have also been five 18-pitch at-bats from Brian Downing, Bip Roberts, Alex Cora, Adam Kennedy, and Marcus Semien.

Sunday’s game wound up going 14 innings. The Astros pulled ahead 9-8 in the top of the 13th on a solo home run from Evan Gattis. However, the Indians’ Yonder Alonso responded with a solo shot of his own in the bottom of the 13th to re-knot the game at 9-9. Greg Allen then lifted a walk-off solo homer in the bottom of the 14th to give the Indians a 10-9 win.

After Sunday’s effort, Ramirez is batting .292/.389/.605 with 15 home runs, 37 RBI, 34 runs scored, and seven stolen bases. According to FanGraphs, his 3.5 Wins Above Replacement ranks third across baseball behind Mike Trout (4.4) and Mookie Betts (4.1). They’re the only players at three wins or above.