NEW YORK (AP) – It rained home runs across the major leagues in April, especially grand slams.

Offense rebounded to its highest level in three seasons and sluggers hit grand slams at a pace that would shatter the season record if it keeps up.

So much for pitchers being ahead of the hitters early in the season.

“In baseball, people are going to want to know why numbers change,” Detroit Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson said. “One year, it was a steroids thing. But now that’s cleared up.

“Then, it was new Yankee Stadium and how the ball flies out of there. Or, it’s the baseballs. I do notice in batting practice, though, you want to hit major league baseballs – not the minor league balls. There’s a mix, and you can tell as soon as you hit one. In BP, you can feel it right away.”

Batters hit .263 in April, up four percentage points from last year and the highest average through April 30 since 2006, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Pitchers 4.56 ERA was the highest since a 4.63 three years ago.

During an April in which the weather was unusually warm in the Northeast and Midwest during the second half of the month, there were 679 homers, an average of 2.10 per game. That’s up from the 1.79 average through April last year and the highest since the 2.31 average in 2006. Runs per game rose from 9.06 to 9.68.

“There have been a lot of pitchers put on the disabled list,” Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. “Usually, the pitchers are ahead of the hitters early in the season, which certainly doesn’t match up with the fact that the offense is up. I don’t know why things would be different, other than the pitching. It’s all about pitching – and the lack of. I mean, pitching affects everything.”

Case in point: bases on balls. There have been an average of 7.61 per game, up from 7.26 through the end of last April and the most since 2000’s 7.82.

“There are some good, young arms that coming into the league, but there are also some arms that are a little banged up and maybe not throwing like they can,” Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “Early in the season, pitchers might not be, you know, quite as crisp coming out of spring training.”

That’s a bit of an understatement. There have been 27 grand slams, up from 19 through April last year. Two slams were hit by the St. Louis Cardinals’ Albert Pujols.

Slams are on pace to total 203 this season, shattering the record of 176 established in 2000.

“Everyone’s looking for reasons,” Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said. “It’s the way things roll. Sometimes it’s a good hitter’s month. Sometimes it’s a good pitcher’s month. If you look back, very rarely are you going to find any consistent patterns when it comes to these things. Sometimes it’s the weather. You can talk about the length of spring training. It could be a million things.”

But the offensive rise has been uniform. And the increase in offense has been accompanied by a big uptick in strikeouts, perhaps as hitters swing for the fences. There have been an average of 13.70 whiffs per game, up from 12.77 last April and the highest first-month average ever, topping 2001’s 13.61, according to Elias.

CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees thinks the extra week of spring training, caused by the World Baseball Classic, may have changed the usual equation between pitchers and hitters.

“Guys started earlier in the Classic, so guys are maybe a little more hot and coming in a little more ready,” he said.

The new ballparks in New York also have affected the numbers.

Twenty-eight home runs were hit at the new Yankee Stadium, topping Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park in 2003 by one for the most homers in the first seven games at a new stadium. Nineteen of those rocketed out to right field, raising the possibility of a wind tunnel in the $1.5 billion ballpark, the most expensive in major league history.

At Citi Field, the Mets hit more triples (10) than home runs (seven) – and they didn’t hit any homers between the power alleys.

Attendance in April, which had fewer games this year than in 2008, averaged 28,905, down 5.3 percent from the average through last April of 30,525. The Yankees, whose new ballpark has about 5,000 lower capacity, fell 12 percent from 50,362 to 44,343. The Mets, whose Citi Field holds about 15,000 fewer than Shea Stadium, slid 23.3 percent, from 49,841 to 38,201.

Washington, in the second season at its ballpark, fell 33.9 percent, from 29,923 to 19,803; Detroit, coming off a disappointing season, fell 25.7 percent, from 36,488 to 27,112; and Toronto dropped 24 percent, from 26,812 to 20,397.

AL champion Tampa Bay rose 47.9 percent, from 18,867 to 27,906, and World Series champion Philadelphia went up 7.3 percent, from 38,858 to 41,714.

So far, fans have seen more offense.

“Usually,” Granderson said, “pitchers start out on fire and the hitters catch up.”


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