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Elias Says: June 17, 2017

Jay provides go-ahead blow in Cubs’ six-run ninth inning

Jon Jay lined Tony Watson’s first pitch into left field, driving home the go-ahead run in the Cubs’ ninth-inning comeback victory over the Pirates. Jay has been a valuable weapon for the Cubs off the bench this season. He is 10-for-25 (.400) as a pinch hitter this year, and he has produced two game-winning RBIs in that role (Jay also plated the game-winning run off the bench against the Cardinals on June 4). Jay is the first player in over 30 years to record at least 10 hits and multiple game-winning RBIs as a pinch-hitter for the Cubbies in a season. Jerry Mumphrey was the last player to do that for the North Siders, going 10-for-29 with two game-winning RBIs in a pinch-hitting role in 1986.

Pirates bullpen lost at sea

Friday’s defeat marked the third time this month that the Pirates lost a game in which they led heading into the ninth inning; Pittsburgh had two losses of that kind on June 6 and 7 at Baltimore. The Pirates had only three losses of that kind in the previous two seasons combined (one in 2015, two in 2016). The last time before this month that Pittsburgh lost as many as three games when leading at the end of eight innings within a calendar month was July 2003 (three such losses).

Betts boosts Boston with late home run

Mookie Betts hit a tiebreaking home run to lead off the eighth inning, giving the Red Sox their margin of victory in a 2–1 win over the Astros. That was the fourth time since the start of last season that Betts hit a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning or later – he had two such round-trippers last season and one earlier this year against the Brewers (May 11). The only player with more go-ahead homers in the eighth inning or later since the start of the 2016 season is Rougned Odor, who has hit five such longballs over that span.

Kelly extends winning streak

Joe Kelly earned the win in relief for the Red Sox on Friday, boosting his record for the season to 3–0. Kelly has won his last 15 decisions dating back to August 2015, the longest such streak for any pitcher since Stephen Strasburg won 16 straight decisions spanning the 2015 and 2016 seasons. What makes Kelly’s streak unique is his continued success while playing different roles. Ten of Kelly’s wins during his streak have come in starts and five have resulted from relief appearances. The only other pitcher in major-league history to produce 15 or more consecutive winning decisions, with at least five wins as a starting pitcher and five wins as a reliever, was Hall-of-Famer Walter Johnson. “The Big Train” compiled a streak of 15 winning decisions with 10 wins as a starter and five as a reliever spanning the 1912–1913 seasons.

Boston’s bullpen is on a roll

Kelly, Matt Barnes, and Craig Kimbrel combined for 2⅔ scoreless innings on Friday, boosting the Red Sox’ total of consecutive scoreless innings by their relievers to 24 innings. That’s the second-longest streak for a team’s bullpen this season; Dodgers relievers had 24⅔ consecutive scoreless innings in May. The last time the Red Sox bullpen compiled a streak of this length was July 2009 (25⅓ scoreless innings).

Walkoff winner for Thames

Eric Thames capped a 6–5 comeback win for the Brewers with a walkoff homer off Padres reliever Ryan Buchter in the 10th inning. Thames also hit a game-winning round-tripper for Milwaukee on Thursday night, a go-ahead two-run homer in the ninth inning at St. Louis. Thames became the second player in Brewers history to hit a lead-assuming home run in the ninth inning or later of consecutive team games, joining Bill Hall who did that in back-to-back games for Milwaukee at St. Louis in July 2008.

Homer-happy night in Milwaukee

Thames was one of four Brewers to go deep on Friday night – Keon Broxton had a three-run bomb while Travis Shaw and Manny Pina joined Thames by hitting solo shots. The Padres had three home runs of their own, including a three-run shot by Wil Myers and solo homers by Yangervis Solarte and Hunter Renfroe. Those home runs plated all 11 of the runs scored at Miller Park on Friday night. The only other game this season in which opposing teams combined for more than 10 runs, all driven in via home runs, was a 9–4 win by the Dodgers over the Cubs on May 28 in Los Angeles.

Reds can’t knock Wood

A solo homer by Devin Mesoraco was all the offense the Reds could muster against Alex Wood, who pitched eight strong innings to stay undefeated on the season. Wood is 6–0 with a 2.08 ERA in 10 starts this season (7–0 overall), making him the fourth Dodgers pitcher since the team relocated to Los Angeles in 1958 to compile a record of 6–0 or better in his first 10 starts of a season. The most recent pitcher to do so for the Dodgers was not Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, or even Fernando Valenzuela, but Burt Hooton, who opened the 1981 season with a 7–0 record through 10 starts (though he took the loss in his next four starts following that streak).

The other dynamic duo to start a season in that fashion for the Dodgers? Koufax and Drysdale perhaps? How about Don Sutton, who went 8–0 through 10 starts in 1972, and Andy Messersmith, who was 6–0 after 10 starts in 1975. Sutton’s first loss came in his 11th start, while Messersmith made it to start number 12 before absorbing his first loss.

Scherzer’s strikeout streak continues

Max Scherzer struck out 10 batters over eight innings to lead the Nationals to victory over the Mets. Scherzer has reached double-digits in strikeouts in eight games this season, including each of his last five starts. Only three other active pitchers have compiled streaks of that length. Chris Sale struck out 10 or more in eight straight starts in 2015 and matched that streak earlier this season. Clayton Kershaw produced a streak of six such starts in 2016, while David Price had a streak of five games of that kind in 2014. Prior to Scherzer, the only pitcher in Nationals/Expos history with a streak of five or more 10-strikeout games was Pedro Martinez. Martinez hit double-digits in strikeouts in six straight starts in June 1997 and compiled another streak of five such games spanning August/September of that year.

Friday’s game also marked the fifth time that Scherzer struck out 10 or more in a start at Citi Field. No other pitcher has more than three such games against the Mets at their current ballpark.

DeJong’s big night puts him in good company

Paul DeJong made an impact for the Cardinals from the bottom of their order in their 11–2 win over the Orioles in Baltimore. DeJong produced three hits and three RBIs from the number nine slot in the lineup, and he scored a run after each of his three hits as well. DeJong became the first player in nearly 10 years to start from the nine-hole in the order and compile at least three hits, three runs, and three RBIs in a game for a National League team. On Aug. 18, 2007, Diamondbacks starting pitcher Micah Owings went 4-for-5 with four runs scored and six RBIs at Atlanta.

DeJong was also the fourth Cardinals player since 1920, when RBIs were first officially recorded in the majors, to produce such a game from the very bottom of the batting order. The first three players to do that for St. Louis are all Hall-of-Fame pitchers – Grover Alexander (1928), Dizzy Dean (1937), and Bob Gibson (1965).

A for Chapman’s effort

The first hit of Matt Chapman’s major-league career was a big one for the A’s. With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, Chapman singled off Yankees reliever Jonathan Holder, turning a one-run deficit into a one-run lead that Oakland would not relinquish. Chapman, who made his major-league debut with the A’s on Thursday, became the first player since Omar Infante to produce a game-winning RBI against the Yankees in either his first or second major-league game. Infante did so in his major-league debut for the Tigers at Yankee Stadium in September 2002, and, like Chapman on Friday, Infante drove in the go-ahead run for his team with a single in the eighth inning.

Melk-man delivers with RISP

Melky Cabrera tied his career-high by producing five RBIs on Friday, helping the White Sox kick off a six-game road trip with a win. Cabrera doubled home two runs in the second inning and hit a three-run homer in the fifth inning to cap the scoring for Chicago. Cabrera is now hitting .350 with runners in scoring position this season, and he has produced 115 hits with runners in scoring position since joining the White Sox in 2015. The only American League player with more RISP hits over that span is Cabrera’s teammate Jose Abreu, who has compiled 117 hits with runners in scoring position over the last three seasons (including two on Friday night).

Quintana excelling north of the border

Jose Quintana, who earned the win in Toronto after allowing two runs in seven innings, has a 5–0 record with a 1.08 ERA at Rogers Centre. Quintana became the third pitcher to win his first five career starts at Rogers Centre, joining Tim Belcher and Andy Pettitte who both won their first five starts at that stadium in the 1990’s.

Another high-offense night in Colorado

Despite reaching double-digits in runs for the second straight game, it was another close call for the Rockies who held off the Giants, 10–8, at Coors Field. Rockies rookie Antonio Senzatela earned his ninth win of the season, three of which have come in starts versus the Giants. Senzatela became the first rookie pitcher since the Giants relocated to the West Coast in 1958 to record as many as three wins in a season against San Francisco before the end of June. The only other Rockies rookie to win three starts against the Giants over a full season was Jason Jennings in 2002.

The Giants, who scored nine runs in their loss to Colorado on Thursday, are the first team to score at least eight runs in each of back-to-back losses since the Rockies did so in August 2015. The last time San Francisco had consecutive losses of that kind was in September 2006 at Milwaukee.

Rodney launching nothing but bullseyes lately

What a turnaround it’s been for Fernando Rodney. The Diamondbacks closer sported an unwieldly 12.60 ERA at the end of April, but he has not been charged with an earned run in 15.2 innings since the calendar turned to May. Rodney’s 1–2–3 ninth inning on Friday against the Phillies marked the third time in the last four days that he earned a save in a one-run victory for the Diamondbacks, having notched a pair of saves in one-run wins at Detroit on Tuesday and Wednesday. No Diamondbacks pitcher had saved as many as three one-run wins for Arizona in a span of four days before Rodney. Two other closers have achieved that feat for other teams this season – Cody Allen (April 26–29) and Kelvin Herrera (May 12–14).

Tigers batter Rays with two big innings

The Tigers erased an early deficit with consecutive five-run innings in their big win over the Rays on Friday. Detroit became the second team to score five or more runs in back-to-back innings within a single game this season. The Diamondbacks achieved that feat on June 11 against the Brewers, posting five runs on the scoreboard in the seventh and eighth innings. The last such occurrence for the Tigers before Friday took place on Sep. 17, 2008 – Detroit scored nine runs in the fifth inning and five more runs in the sixth inning at Texas.

Bour’s back with a bang

Justin Bour homered in his first game off the disabled list, providing an early insurance run in the Marlins’ 5–0 over the Braves. It’s clear that the Marlins have missed having Bour’s bat in the lineup – over his last 25 games Bour is batting .386 with 13 home runs and 24 RBIs. Only two other Marlins players compiled as many as 13 homers over a span of 25 games within a single season. Dan Uggla homered 13 times in 25 games in 2008, and Giancarlo Stanton had spans of that kind in two seasons, topping out at 13 homers in 2012 and 14 homers in 2015.