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Elias Says: Sept. 24, 2017

Indians keep rolling

The Indians’ 11–4 victory over the Mariners was the team’s 28th victory in its last 30 games, which equaled the major-league record for wins over a span of 30 games. The record is shared by several teams, each of which did it more than 100 years ago: the St. Louis Maroons of the Union Association in 1884 (that league’s only year as a major league); Old Hoss Radbourn’s Providence Grays, the National League champions in 1884; the St. Louis Browns of the American Association in 1887; the Boston Braves, overlapping the 1891 and 1892 seasons, and then again in 1897; the Cubs, who did it in both 1880 and 1906; and, yes, the New York Giants in 1916.

Lindor leads shortstops in historic power display

Francisco Lindor led off the top of the first inning with a solo home run for Cleveland, his 33rd homer of the season, all of which he’s hit while batting as a shortstop. Lindor has the most home runs by any shortstop this season, as well as the most by any Indians shortstop in a single season. There have been 512 home runs hit by shortstops this season, the most for any single season in major-league history. That also makes 2017 the first major-league season in which there were at least 500 home runs hit by every infield (and outfield) position.

A comeback so nice, the Brewers did it twice

A game-tying home run by Orlando Arcia almost went for naught for the Brewers after the Cubs recaptured the lead in the top of the 10th inning. Travis Shaw came to the rescue, following up a double from Ryan Braun with a game-ending two-run homer. The Brewers became the fourth major-league team this season to win a game by wiping out a deficit in the ninth inning and then climbing out of another hole in extras. The Pirates enjoyed a similar “double comeback” against the Braves on April 9, as did the Dodgers over the Giants on July 30 and the Phillies against the Marlins on September 12.

It had been 25 years since the last time that Milwaukee won a game of that kind; on Aug. 14, 1992, the Brewers defeated the Red Sox, 8–7, in 13 innings. In the first game of a doubleheader that day, the Brewers pushed across the game-tying run in the bottom of the ninth inning on a sacrifice fly by Robin Yount. Boston scored two runs in the top of the 12th inning, and Milwaukee rallied for three straight two-out hits in the bottom half to tie the score. Jim Gantner’s walkoff homer won the game in the next inning. It was not only Gantner’s only homer of the 1992 season, it was also the final four-bagger of his 17-year career, entirely spent with the Brewers.

Correa is key to Astros’ success

Carlos Correa rapped three run-scoring hits in three at-bats for the Astros in their 6–2 victory over the Angels. Correa drove in Houston’s first run with a single in the first inning, then, after being intentionally walked in the third inning, he contributed an RBI double in the fifth and an RBI single in the seventh. Saturday’s game marked the third game in which Correa produced at least three run-scoring hits in a single game. He had one such game against the Twins last season as well as one earlier this year at Toronto. No other Astros shortstop has produced three RBI hits in more than one game in the team’s 56-year history. The only other shortstops to provide at least three run-scoring hits in three or more games since the start of last season is Trevor Story, who has four games of that kind over that span, and Corey Seager, who has three such games.

The Astros have won two-thirds of their games this season in which Correa participated, going 68–34 and averaging 5.75 runs per game. By the way, that translates to a 108-win pace over a 162-game season. In 52 games that Correa has missed this year, Houston has posted a 27–25 record – equivalent to a 84-win pace over a full season – while averaging 4.73 runs per contest, more than one run less than in games with Correa in the lineup.

Quite a road trip for Red Sox pitching

Eduardo Rodriguez and two Red Sox relievers combined to blank the Reds, 5–0, at Great American Ball Park. Boston has won each of its last five games including shutout victories in three of its last four contests (the Red Sox held the Orioles scoreless in Baltimore on Tuesday and Wednesday). No other team has delivered three road shutouts in the span of four games this season. The Dodgers (April 4–7) were the only team with such a span last season; they held the Padres scoreless in each of the first three games of the 2016 campaign. The last American League team with a three-shutouts-within-four-games span was the Rays in July 2012.

Bird takes flight with runners in scoring position

Greg Bird’s three-run homer off Joe Biagini gave the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish against the Blue Jays. Almost all of Bird’s success this season has come with runners in scoring position – he has batted .300 (12-for-40) at those times this season, compared to .105 (9-for-86) in all other at-bats, giving him an overall batting average of .167 for the season. Only two players in the last 60 years finished a season with a batting average under .200, despite hitting .300 or better with runners in scoring position (with at least 40 at-bats in that situation). Tom Prince did so for the 1993 Pirates (.196 overall, .326 with RISP), as did Tony Pena for the 1996 Indians (.195 overall, .302 with RISP).

Abreu in great company

Jose Abreu drove in both of the White Sox’ runs against the Royals on Saturday night, which were his 99th and 100th RBIs of the season. Abreu has produced at least 25 home runs and 100 RBIs in each of his first four major-league seasons for the White Sox. Only two other players in major-league history reached those levels in each of their first four seasons in the majors. Joe DiMaggio did so in his first six seasons for the Yankees from 1936 to 1941, and Albert Pujols did so in 10 consecutive seasons from 2001 to 2010 for the Cardinals.

Rock solid inning for Twins rookie

Zack Granite bookended the scoring for the Twins in their eight-run eighth-inning rally against the Tigers. The Twins rookie pinch-ran for Joe Mauer and scored the game-tying run for Minnesota, then he blasted his first major-league homer later in the inning to bring home three runs and put the game out of reach. Only one other player in the last 15 seasons homered in an inning after entering the game earlier in that inning as a pinch-runner. On Sept. 5, 2008, Rajai Davis homered with the bases loaded in the eighth inning for the A’s at Baltimore after pinch running earlier in the frame.

Davis’s 40th homer is enough offense for A’s

Khris Davis’s 40th home run of the season was all the offense that the A’s would need in a 1–0 win over the Rangers. Davis became just the seventh player this season to homer in a 1–0 win, joining Erick Aybar (April 19), Miguel Sano (May 12), Josh Harrison (August 23), Gerrit Cole (August 26), Neil Walker (September 1), and Domingo Santana (September 19). There were more than twice as many home runs in 1-0 games in each of the previous three seasons (21 in 2014, 15 in 2015, 21 in 2016). The last season in which there were fewer than 10 home runs in 1–0 wins was 2009; there were five such homers in that season.

Davis, who homered 42 times for Oakland last year, also became the seventh player in major-league history to hit at least 40 home runs in each of his first two seasons for a team. Alex Rodriguez topped 40 homers in each of his three seasons with the Rangers from 2001 to 2003. The other five players did so in each of their first two seasons with their respective clubs – Babe Ruth (1920–21 Yankees), Cecil Fielder (1990–91 Tigers), Jason Giambi (2002–03 Yankees), Jim Thome (2003–04 Phillies), and Nelson Cruz (2015–16 Mariners). Cruz needs three more circuit clouts this year to achieve his third 40-homer season and match Rodriguez’s mark.

Petco Park is home sweet home for Chacin

Why would Jhoulys Chacin ever pitch outside of Petco Park again? Chacin threw six scoreless innings against the Rockies in San Diego’s home park on Saturday, cutting his home ERA for the season to 1.79 in 16 starts. That’s more than five runs better than his road ERA this season (6.93 in 15 starts). Since Major League Baseball expanded to 18 teams in 1961, only two qualifiers for the ERA title finished a season with a home ERA at least five runs better than their road ERA. The largest difference between home and road ERA belongs to Ismael Valdez, who pitched for both the Padres and Marlins in 2004 and compiled a 2.55 ERA at his two home parks, six runs better than his road ERA that year (8.56). Bud Norris also pitched markedly better at home for the Astros in 2012, finishing with a 1.71 ERA in Houston and 6.94 ERA everywhere else.

Valleys among the Rockie mountains

The Rockies’ offense has struggled this past week, posting goose eggs in three of their last four games. Such a span was unprecedented in Rockies history – this is the first time in 25 major-league seasons that Colorado was held scoreless three times in a four-game stretch. Several of the 30 active MLB franchises experienced such a span in their first season in the majors, including the Cardinals, Astros, Padres, and Marlins. Every team besides the Rockies was blanked three times in the span of four games within their first 20 seasons of existence. Prior to the Rockies, the team that held out the longest before their first “three shutouts in four games” span was the Giants, who experienced their first stretch of that kind in their 19th season in the National League (1901).

Murphy strikes again versus former mates

Daniel Murphy continued to punish his former team, blasting a go-ahead solo homer in the 10th inning to give the Nationals a 4–3 win over the Mets. Since signing with the Nationals in 2016, Murphy has batted .390 in 37 games versus the Mets. That’s the fourth-highest batting average for any player versus any major-league team, with at least 100 at-bats against that team since the start of last season. The top three on that list: Trea Turner (.411 against the Braves), Joey Votto (.399 against the Cardinals), and Jose Abreu (.391 against the Tigers).

Lynn hits showers early

Lance Lynn was chased in the first inning after allowing eight earned runs at PNC Park. Lynn became just the second Cardinals pitcher in the last 20 years to allow as many as eight runs in a start without finishing the first inning. Matt Morris also gave up eight runs while recording just two outs on July 31, 2004 at San Francisco. Lynn had allowed just five first-inning runs in his previous 22 starts entering his disastrous performance on Saturday.

You can bet on Duda when it comes to home runs

Lucas Duda’s three-run homer put the Rays ahead to stay in their 9–6 victory over the Orioles. The longball was Duda’s 30th home run of the season, matching his career high, first achieved with the Mets in 2014. There has never been a season in which multiple players finished the year with at least 30 home runs and fewer than 100 hits, but two players are in line to do so this year – Duda (30 homers, 90 hits) and Joey Gallo (38 homers, 89 hits). The lowest hit total for a player in a 30-homer season belongs to Mark McGwire, who produced 72 hits, including 32 round-trippers, in his penultimate season for the Cardinals in 2000. “Big Mac” finished with a .302 batting average that season, however, easily dwarfing Duda’s .221 mark this year.

Morrison’s road has never been traveled before

Logan Morrison also went deep for the Rays at Camden Yards, his 37th home run of the season, 27 of which have come in road games. No player who hit as many as 37 homers in a season hit such a high percentage of them (73 percent) on the road as Morrison this year. The highest such percentage in seasons past was achieved by Jeff Bagwell in 1999 – 30 of his 42 homers (71.4 percent) were hit on the road that year.

Posey seals one-run win by nabbing Puig

Yasiel Puig was caught stealing by Buster Posey to end the Dodgers’ 2–1 loss to the Giants on Saturday night. That’s the second time this season that an alert throw by the Giants catcher led to the final out of a one-run win for San Francisco. The other win also came at the expense of the Dodgers – on April 24, Justin Turner was picked off second base by Posey to seal a 2–1 win at San Francisco.