Los Angeles Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw has been voted the National League Pitcher of the Month for May.
In six starts during the month, Kershaw posted a 5-0 record and led the Majors with a 0.91 ERA, allowing just five earned runs over a Major League-best 49.2 innings of work. He fanned a Major League-leading 65 last month while walking just two. The five-time All-Star also led the Majors with three complete-game shutouts. No other pitcher had more than one.
Kershaw notched his third shutout on May 23rd, tossing 9.0 scoreless frames and allowing only two hits to record his fifth consecutive win in a 1-0 victory over Cincinnati at Dodger Stadium. The shutout performance tied his previous single-season career-best (also 2015) and was the 15th of his career. He recorded seven strikeouts in the outing, while issuing one walk. The performance came on the heels of an 11-strikeout effort on May 17th, in which he tossed 8.0 innings of one-run ball en route to a 6-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels. It was the sixth consecutive performance (dating back to April 21st) in which the Texas native recorded 10-or-more strikeouts while issuing one walk-or-less, a modern-era record. In that six-start span, Kershaw struck out 68 batters while issuing only two walks. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no other pitcher in the modern era has recorded as many strikeouts with as few walks over a six-start span. This is his sixth career NL Pitcher of the Month Award, having won most recently for July 2015.
Others receiving votes included Miami’s Jose Fernandez (6-0, 1.38 ERA, 56 SO, 39.0 IP); San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner (4-0, 1.05 ERA, 45 SO, 42.2 IP) and Johnny Cueto (4-0, 2.03 ERA, 39 SO, 44.1 IP); and Noah Syndergaard (3-2, 1.95 ERA, 43 SO, 37.0 IP) of the New York Mets.
For the American League, starter Rich Hill of the Oakland A’S received the award. Hill compiled a 5-1 record with a 2.13 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 38.0 innings pitched over six starts to claim his first career Pitcher of the Month Award, and the first for the Athletics since his teammate Sonny Gray won the honor in July 2014. Among qualifying starters in the AL (minimum 30.0 innings pitched), Rich finished first in ERA, tied for first in wins, tied for third in strikeouts and tied for sixth in innings pitched. The crafty left-hander journeyman held opponents to a .178 batting average and gave up just one home run.
Hill, a University of Michigan product, completed his excellent month with a nine-strikeout effort in a win against the Detroit Tigers on May 29th. With the victory, the Boston native became the first A’s pitcher to win five games in a month since Gray during his award-winning month. The 36-year-old veteran joins Mark Mulder (2001) and Gil Heredia (2000) as the only A’s pitchers to accomplish the feat in the month of May over the last 28 years. Additionally, the 2002 fourth round pick (by the Chicago Cubs) is the 10th Oakland pitcher in club history to register eight wins before the end of May, and the first since Mulder did so in 2003. With 74 strikeouts entering play today, Hill is tied with Jose Rijo (1986) for the second-most strikeouts at the end of May in franchise history. Only Vida Blue’s 102 strikeout mark in 1971 ranks higher. From April 21st – May 18th, Oakland’s ace spun six starts in which he gave up no more than four hits, while working at least five innings, marking the longest streak in franchise history dating back to at least 1913. Following his team-leading 11th start of the season, in which he tossed 6.1 innings of two-run ball against the Tigers, Hill ranks second among AL leaders with a 2.25 ERA, trailing only Jose Quintana of the Chicago White Sox (2.13). Moreover, the All-Star hopeful ranks second in wins, trailing Chicago’s Chris Sale (9), fifth in strikeouts (74) and sixth in batting average against (.207).
Others receiving votes for AL Pitcher of the Month included Zach Britton (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 8 SV, 13 SO) and Chris Tillman (5-0, 2.72 ERA, 39.2 IP, 37 SO) of the Baltimore Orioles; Sale (4-1, 2.88 ERA, 2 CG, 44 SO) of the White Sox; Marco Estrada (2-0, 2.14 ERA, 42.0 IP, 33 SO) of the Toronto Blue Jays; Danny Salazar (3-2, 2.41 ERA, 37.1 IP, 46 SO) of the Cleveland Indians; and CC Sabathia (2-2, 1.04 ERA, 26.0 IP, 25 SO) of the New York Yankees.