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MLB offense remains at anemic levels not seen in nearly 50 years

Spencer Turnbull's no-hitter for Detroit on May 18 in Seattle was the fifth of six in a 40-day stretch across Major League Baseball, and the first of two in back-to-back days.Steph Chambers/Getty

The major league batting average rose slightly in May, though batting average remained lower than it’s been since before baseball lowered the pitcher’s mound to increase offense.

The .239 league-wide batting average in May was up from .232 in April, but the lowest average for May since 1972, the Elias Sports Bureau said Tuesday. The .236 average for the season through May 31 is the lowest since .229 in 1968 — the last season before the pitcher’s mound was lowered from 15 inches to 10.

May’s .315 on-base percentage was up from .309 in April, but the lowest for May since .314 in 2015. The .312 total through May 31 is also the lowest since 1972.

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In an era of home runs, slugging percentage did not decline as much. The .397 percentage in May was the lowest since .395 in 2014, and the .393 percentage for the season through May 31 was the lowest since .392 in 2014.

Strikeouts exceeded hits by 838 in May after topping them by 1,091 in April, Elias said. Strikeouts had never exceeded hits over a full calendar month before May 2018.

Strikeouts have averaged 8.99 per team per game, on pace to set a record for the 13th consecutive full season — up from 8.81 two years ago and nearly double the 4.77 in 1979. Strikeouts already are 1,929 ahead of hits, just three years after exceeding hits for the first time over a full season.

Hits have averaged 7.78 per team per game, the second-lowest behind 7.75 in 1908 during the dead-ball era. There have been six no-hitters (not including Madison Bumgarner’s seven-inning hitless game for Arizona in a doubleheader on April 25), one shy of the most in a season since 1900.

Home runs have averaged 1.13 per team per game, down from 1.28 last year and the lowest since 2015′s 1.01.

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Blue Jays still hoping for true homecoming in 2021

Speaking before the Blue Jays beat Miami, 5-1, in their first game this season in Buffalo, N.Y., their Triple-A affiliate once again their temporary home following a two-month stay at their spring site in Dunedin, Fla., team president Mark Shapiro believes there’s a chance the Jays could finally return home to Toronto at some point this season.

Shapiro declined to get into specifics by saying talks between the Blue Jays and Canadian health officials have become more frequent and “certainly more positive” in recent weeks. In referring to an “underlying level of optimism” connected to more Canadians receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, Shapiro stressed the most significant challenge remains the Canadian border being closed to non-essential travel.

“Just focus on the border, recognizing anything around that is going to be a challenge — not impossible — but a challenge,” he said. “But the only clarity exists around the border being open.”

The Blue Jays have not played in Toronto since closing the 2019 season with an 8-3 win over Tampa Bay on Sept. 29. On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his nation won’t be rushed into reopening its border, which has been closed since the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020. Canadians returning to their homeland are required to immediately spend 14 days in self-quarantine.

The Blue Jays are currently committed to playing in Buffalo through July 4, which closes a 10-game homestand. Toronto isn’t scheduled to play a home game again until opening a three-game series against Texas on July 16.

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St. Louis loses top starter Jack Flaherty to significant oblique injury

Jack Flaherty will be on the shelf for a stretch with an oblique injury.Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

St. Louis ace Jack Flaherty went on the injured list and is going be out “awhile,” manager Mike Shildt said, with an oblique injury Flaherty suffered during an abbreviated start Monday. “It is not a minimal situation. It is a real strain or tear,” Shildt said before Tuesday’s game. Flaherty came out of a 9-4 loss to the Dodgers after five innings, saying after the game he’d felt the injury both on his final pitches and during an at-bat in the top of the sixth; he noticeably grimaced after fouling off a pitch. Flaherty’s eight wins in 11 starts led the majors entering Tuesday, and his 2.90 ERA was best on the Cardinals’ staff by more than a run . . . Clint Frazier ended the Yankees’ four-game slide with a game-ending, two-run homer with two outs in the 11th inning after making a game-saving catch in the eighth, New York beating Tampa Bay, 5-3 . . . Fernando Tatis Jr. exited San Diego’s 4-3 loss to the Cubs because of right oblique tightness. He hit a fly to left field in the sixth inning and was replaced at shortstop in the bottom half of the inning . . . Stephen Strasburg lasted just 30 pitches for Washington in a start at Atlanta, staying in the game after a leadoff four-pitch walk despite apparent discomfort in his right hand/forearm and diminished velocity, then departing with a trainer following a 109.6-mph comebacker nicking him in the hand with one out in the second inning. It was Strasburg’s third start since he returned from spending more than a month on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation . . . Andrew Benintendi hit a grand slam and drove in five runs, leading Kansas City to a 10-5 victory over Pittsburgh . . . Cedric Mullins got two hits and scored two runs to go along with a sensational catch, helping Baltimore snap its 14-game losing streak with a 7-4 victory over Minnesota, which had beaten the Orioles 16 straight times head-to-head . . . Seattle placed last year’s American League Rookie of the Year, outfielder Kyle Lewis, on the 10-day injured list with a torn meniscus in his right knee and it’s unclear whether he’ll need surgery. Lewis appeared to get injured while trying to run down a fly ball from Sean Murphy in the eighth inning of the Mariners’ victory Monday over Oakland. He had an MRI on Tuesday morning. Manager Scott Servais said the injury is different than the bone bruise that had Lewis on the injured list for the first three weeks of the regular season. While Seattle recalled outfielder Taylor Trammell from Triple-A Tacoma to take Lewis’ spot, Servais said rookie Jarred Kelenic will be the primary center fielder until Lewis returns . . . Mike Marshall, who became the first reliever to win the Cy Young Award when he set a major league record by pitching 106 games for the 1974 Los Angeles Dodgers, died Monday night in Zephyrhills, Fla. He was 78 and had been receiving hospice care. “Iron Mike” pitched in the majors from 1967 to 1981 for nine teams, and was an All-Star with the Dodgers in 1974 and ’75. He still holds the American League record for games pitched in a season with 90 for the 1979 Minnesota Twins, around which time he earned a doctorate in kinesiology at Michigan State. He later advocated a pitching method he developed that he believed could eradicate arm injuries . . . The San Francisco Giants will feature the rainbow colors of Pride in the logo on their game caps Saturday against the Chicago Cubs, along with a Pride patch on the right sleeves of their home uniforms — making them the first major league team to make such a public display of support for the LGBTQ+ community . . . A 21-page lawsuit by conservative small-business advocacy organization Job Creators Network, filed Monday in federal court in New York, demands Major League Baseball immediately return next month’s All-Star Game to Atlanta, plus $100 million in damages to local and state small businesses and $1 billion in punitive damages. MLB announced April 2 that it would move the All-Star Game, which was scheduled for Truist Park, out of Georgia in response to the state’s new voting law. The July 13 event was awarded to Denver the following week. Alfredo Ortiz, president and CEO of the Texas-based Job Creators Network, called the move “a knee-jerk, hypocritical and illegal reaction to misinformation about Georgia’s new voting law.” The suit contends that moving the game “intended to punish Georgians because their state enacted a reasonable ballot-integrity statute,” and names MLB, the MLB Players Association, commissioner Rob Manfred, and MLBPA executive director Tony Clark as defendants.

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