Welcome back to another installment of the PTERODACTYL awards, where we take the time to recognize the most exciting players and moments of the last week of baseball. For those of you joining us for the first time this week, PTERODACTYL is an overly complex acronym standing for Players That Embrace Riling Onlookers, Demanding Attention, & Causing Them to Yell Louder. It’s a Pitcher List award to be bestowed upon the players that demand our attention week to week with their performance and personality, both on and off the field.
While week four brought an end to the ridiculous run of no-hitters to open the season, it was still packed with weird and impressive (and weirdly impressive) moments and plays.
Jaw-Dropper(s) of the Week
Oddly enough, last week’s premiere moments came from the bats of two pitchers, Adrian Houser and Huascar Ynoa, as they became the first two non-Ohtani pitchers to hit home runs in 2021. You may very well be sitting there thinking, “So what? It’s still not worth not having a DH.” This may be true, however, pitcher home runs will always be cool. Full stop. And, due to the rapidly approaching implementation of said designated hitter, pitcher home runs should be cherished even more this year, as it’s looking increasingly likely that 2021 will be the last season of pitchers hitting.
Houser’s home run came at the expense of Miami’s starter Daniel Castano when he took a grooved 90mph fastball to the deepest part of Marlins Park to tie up the game in the top of the second inning. It was a 418-foot laser beam to center field, and at 109mph, it was the second hardest hit of the day behind Avisaíl García’s 109.1mph single.
Huascar Ynoa‘s blast came a day later when the Cubs came to town in Atlanta. Ynoa came to the plate with his team up 6-0 in the fourth and connected with a 1-1 curveball from Kyle Hendricks. It was Ynoa’s second hit of the night, and it came at 104.4 mph off the bat, which happened to be about 5 mph slower than his first. He even took a little time to admire his blast before trotting down the line, helping his team on both sides of the ball en route to a 10-0 rout. Ohtani who?
King of the Hill
5/2/2021 — Corey Kluber
8 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 10 K, 1 BB, 34% CSW
While Corey Kluber may no longer be the “Klubot” of old, the 35-year-old righty proved he’s still got some gas left in the tank last week by spinning a gem against Detroit. The Yankees veteran (which still feels weird to say) locked down the cellar-dwelling Tigers over eight shutdown innings, allowing just three baserunners on a pair of hits and a walk. It was a near-vintage performance for the one-time Cy Young award winner, as he stymied hitters with a new look changeup on his way to a 34% CSW and his 100th career win. At eight innings, it was also Kluber’s longest and most effective start of the young season, and I’m looking forward to seeing if he can keep rolling against stronger competition. He gets the nod this week with the best individual pitching performance in MLB.
(Combined) 7-for-12, 5 R, 3 HR, 2B, 15 RBI
After a 12-game slide where they went 3-9 and struggled to average 3.5 runs per game, the Dodgers seemed to be chomping at the bit to get their offense moving again. It felt like a matter of time until they broke through, and they finally did on Sunday, when they came alive and absolutely ruined the debut of Brewers’ starter Alec Bettinger by tagging him for 11 earned runs in just four innings. The offensive explosion was led by a pair of relatively unlikely candidates, at least in the sense that it wasn’t one of the Dodgers’ marquee names that lit the fire. Instead, the charge came from the bats of AJ Pollock and the role player Matt Beaty, who combined for 15 of the Dodgers’ 16 RBIs in the game.
AJ Pollock and Matt Beaty become the first pair of teammates in Dodgers history with 7 RBI in a game, and just the 6th pair of teammates since RBI became official in 1920. pic.twitter.com/dYTtAXu99E
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 2, 2021
The Dodgers came out of the gates swinging in the first inning and loaded the bases for veteran outfielder AJ Pollock. Pollock then promptly deposited a low-and-away slider 425 feet to dead center for a grand slam, helping L.A. jump out to a 5-0 lead, one they held the remainder of the game. The next inning the bases were once again loaded for utility man Matt Beaty, who crushed the second grand slam in as many innings to kick off Bettinger’s career. Beaty would go on to collect another three hits on the afternoon, with three additional RBI to keep the Dodgers in front. Pollock, meanwhile, added another round-tripper in the sixth off and a double high off the wall to his box score and finished the day 3-for-6 with 8 RBI. Entering into a weekday series with the Cubs this week, we will see if the Dodgers’ offensive surge can keep the bats rolling heading into Wrigley.
Honorable Mentions: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Rockin’ Role Player
7-for-21, 3 HR, 2B, .333/.333/.810, 202 wRC+
If you’ve been an ardent follower of the PTERODACTYLs since the beginning (a whole four weeks!), you’re familiar with the Rockin’ Role Player award, where we seek to shine a light on some of the overlooked performances from the bench and utility players that helped move the chains for their teams over the past week. Today’s spotlighted role player is none other than Arizona’s Josh Rojas, who has done an admirable job of filling in at second base for the injured Ketel Marte and hit home runs in three consecutive games this past weekend. Rojas is entering his third season in a bench role with the D-Backs, and made a case for more at-bats last week with four extra-base hits, including three that left the yard. He led his team in slugging and finished the week with a 1.143 OPS while avoiding walks like a fresh MLB The Show player. It still remains to be seen if the last week was just a blip or a prelude to something more for Rojas, though with Ketel Marte returning soon he will be pressed to keep up the production to keep himself in the lineup.
Let the Kids Play
Baseball is meant to be a fun sport (hopefully this is something we can all agree on). After all, it’s the only sport where middle-aged managers wear full-length pajamas and gnaw on toothpicks like unhinged beavers for four hours a night. It’s about bat flips, smiles, and swim-move slides, and the moments of personality that shine through between pitches. In that vein, the Let the Kids Play PTERODACTYL rewards just that: when players drop their ultra-competitive exteriors to share a laugh or otherwise have fun while getting paid to play a kid’s game. This week’s award goes to the NL East tandem of Juan Soto and Rhys Hoskins, who shared a moment of levity during their divisional matchup over the weekend.
This staredown 😂
Hoskins never planned on throwing it once Soto stopped 🤣 pic.twitter.com/tBOY3bc7kO
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 3, 2021
After tapping a roller up the first baseline, Soto is stopped in his tracks by Hoskins, who haunches down to block the path for the tag. Instead of rolling over and letting Hoskins tag him out, Soto instead starts slowly walking backward. When Hoskins turns to flip the ball to first, Soto springs his trap and breaks into a trot to halfheartedly get around him. But it’s a bluff! Hoskins fakes the throw and tags out the shuffling Soto. It’s moments like these that break up the grind of a nine-inning game and inject some fun and personality that we need more of in today’s game.
Honorable Mention: Omar Narváez trolls Jesús Aguilar by telling him it’s only ball three.
Heartwarmer of the Week
5/2/2021 — Mad Max’s Mad Dash
Leave it to Mad (Dad?) Max to throw a complete game shutout and then rush to the hospital immediately afterward for the birth of his child. The future Hall of Famer has pitched through a broken nose and black eye already, so shutting down the Marlins in time for the delivery was all in a day’s work for Scherzer, who kept them to just five hits and one run scattered across 106 pitches. Scherzer also racked up nine strikeouts on the day and finished his afternoon with a 35.8% CSW. All of that must have paled in comparison to the birth of his son later that day, however. When asked about Scherzer’s performance and subsequent dash to the hospital, Nationals backstop Yan Gomes said, “We knew going into it, that’s why we tried to make it a quick game. I’m kidding.” It’s another iconic moment in Scherzer’s long and storied career of pitching through nearly any circumstance and doing so at a Cooperstown level. Congrats to the Scherzers, and to the Blue Jays on their 2039 first-round pick.
That just about covers it for this week! Be sure to check in again next Tuesday for another installment of the PTERODACTYL awards. See you then!
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