1. Yunel Escobar, Washington Nationals: Escobar racked up a five-for-five effort in the Nationals' 5-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. That showing brought him up to fourth in the National League in batting average (.331).
Escobar's offense revolves around his batting average, rarely getting on base unless he hits the ball. When Escobar does make contact, it's usually a single. So far, 2015 reflects that with 6.7 percent of his plate appearances resulting in walks, well below his career norm of 8.8 percent. To measure his power, or lack thereof, we can subtract his slugging percentage from his batting average to calculate his Isolated Power (ISO). Escobar's 2015 ISO of .078 is below not just the average 2015 MLBer (.143), but also well below Escobar's career average of .103. His performance against the Rays is a good example of that lack of power where only one of his five hits went for extra bases, and a mere double at that.
That's not to say Escobar's 2015 is spoiled milk. Escobar doesn't strike out much, and he is posting career high rates in ground balls and line drives. A lot of those singles are of the "hit 'em where they ain't" variety and generating a lot of balls in play is a good way to get into a batting race. Throw in some generally decent defense at multiple positions and that's a player any major league team can find a use for. Just don't overpay for a shiny batting average.
2. Enrique Hernandez, Los Angeles Dodgers: The pinch-runner juked Texas Rangers reliever Keone Kela into a game-winning balk by faking a break to home plate. A little savvy pushed the Dodgers to a 1-0 win against the Rangers.
The win also snapped the Dodgers' four-game losing streak. It was the first walk-off balk since Kansas City Royals pitcher Aaron Crow flinched against the White Sox to allow the winning run to score in 2011.
3. Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates: Cole tossed seven innings against the White Sox, giving up two runs and allowing six base runners to earn his sixth straight win. The win brought Cole's record up to 11-2 and actually raised his ERA up to 1.78 ERA. He's had quality starts in 12 of his 14 outings this year, allowing as much as 3 runs in a start only twice all season.
4. J.P. Howell, Los Angeles Dodgers: While we're on the subject of Dodgers, with the one inning of work Howell logged Thursday, he hasn't allowed an earned run since April 10th or a run of any kind since May 29th. Against the Rangers on Thursday, he struck out the side in a perfect eighth inning. It might not show up in some of the "decision" stats, since Howell's only notched two wins and four holds in his 26 appearances, but that kind of scoreless security gets noticed in ways beyond the box score.
5. San Francisco Giants offense: In these days of offensive doldrums, it's worth noting the Giants had three players with an OBP over .350 on their lineup cards for Thursday night's engagement with the Seattle Mariners. Brandon Belt then joined that club by walking twice in four plate appearances. Every guy in the lineup reached base in their 7-0 win. Overall, the Giants are second in the National League in OBP (.327) while playing a majority of their games in a notorious pitching park.