Elias Says: July 8, 2017

The summer of George

George Springer smashed his 26th and 27th homers of the season as he went 4-for-4 with five RBIs in the Astros’ 12-2 pounding of the Blue Jays, north of the border. His 27 homers have all been hit from the top spot in the lineup, and on Friday night he set a major-league record for homers from the leadoff spot prior to the All-Star break. He tied and then broke the mark of 26, established in 1996 by the Orioles’ Brady Anderson.

On May 31 of this season, Springer went 4-for-4 with two homers in a game in Minneapolis. On Friday night, Springer became the first MLB player in the modern era (since 1900) to have two games like that from the first spot in the batting order in his major-league career, let alone in a season. And when we say, “like that,” we mean that a player hit at least two homers in a game in which he had four-or-more at-bats with a hit in each of them.

For the team, it was already Houston’s 10th road game amassing a double-digit runs total this year. No major-league team had produced such a high total prior to the All-Star break since the Anaheim Angels had 10 such road games before the break in 2004.

Judge hits his 30th, surpasses Joe D.’s Yankees rookie record

Aaron Judge crushed his 30th home run of the season, a blast over the center-field fence that broke the Yankees’ record for home runs by a rookie in an entire season—a mark that had been the property of one Joseph Paul DiMaggio since 1936! Judge joined Mark McGwire as the only rookies in MLB history to produce 30 homers before the All-Star break; McGwire belted 33 homers in 289 at-bats over 80 games before the All-Star break in 1987. Judge finished Friday night’s game with 294 at-bats over 82 games.

Earlier this season (May 28 to June 30), Judge had a streak of reaching base in 32 straight games, tying Zack Cozart for the longest in the majors this season. With his 30th round-tripper, Judge joined a rather eclectic 30/30 club. The only other players in major-league history to hit at least 30 homers and produce an on-base streak of 30-plus games in their rookie season were Frank Robinson in 1956 (38 homers, 43-game on-base streak), Nomar Garciaparra in 1997 (30 homers, 30-game on-base streak) and Albert Pujols in 2001 (37 homers, on-base streaks of 30 and 48 games).

Aguilar stars in first game in the Bronx

Jesus Aguilar hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the fourth inning, a game-tying sacrifice fly in the sixth, and a go-ahead, grand-slam homer in the seventh as the Brewers withstood a rain delay, a home run by Aaron Judge, and five of their own errors in a 9-4 win at Yankee Stadium. Aguilar became the first player ever to produce a pair of homers and as many as seven RBIs in his first big-league game in the Bronx—in either version of the Yankee Stadium. And he became the first player to generate a 2-and-7 game against the Yankees in the newer version of the Stadium, which opened in 2009.

Aguilar’s grand-slam homer came immediately after Joe Girardi had ordered an intentional walk to the preceding batter, Travis Shaw. It was the third time this season that a major-leaguer had poled a jackpot homer after the batter ahead of him had been intentionally walked. Ryan Rua of Texas hit a four-run blast in those circumstances against the Twins on April 26, and Yoenis Cespedes did the same at Atlanta on June 10. It was the fifth time in Girardi’s 10 years managing the Yankees that an intentional walk had backfired in that manner; he was previously bitten by Seattle’s Jose Lopez in 2010, Tampa Bay’s Carlos Pena in 2012, and by Boston’s Mike Napoli and Tampa Bay’s Wil Myers in 2013. It’s the highest grand-slams-right-after-an-intentional-pass total allowed by any big-league team since 2010.

The Brewers became the first major-league team in more than five years to win a game in which they made five-or-more errors. The Diamondbacks were the last team to do it, overcoming five errors to nip the Giants, 7-6, on April 8, 2012. But to find the last major-league game in which a team made at least five errors by won by a margin of five-or-more runs, look back to April 30, 1995, when the White Sox won, 17-11, at Boston, in a game in which they committed six errors.

Dodgers, on 24-4 run, now 30 games above .500

Yasiel Puig hit his 16th homer of the season and Chase Utley drove in the 1000th run of his major-league career, but the big news in La-La Land is that the Dodgers move to 30 games above .500 with a 4-1 victory over the visiting Royals: 59 wins and 29 losses. It marked only the second time that the Dodgers have stood as many as 30 games above .500 this early (88 games) in a season since moving west in 1958. (The 1974 team had a 60-28 record at the 88-game mark.) Dave Roberts has now led his team to 24 wins in its last 28 games, a pace that they have achieved in only one other season since moving to California. In 2013, the Dodgers won 25 of 28 games from July 19 to August 17.

Bryant sends Friday afternoon fans home happy

Kris Bryant went 4-for-5 and belted two home runs in the Cubs’ 6–1 win over the Pirates at Wrigley Field. It was the fourth time that Bryant has accumulated at least four hits and two homers in a game; he did it three times last year. Bryant is the first player in Cubs history to have four such games over any two-season span. The last major-leaguer to do that was Miguel Cabrera, in 2013 (three) and 2014 (one).

Bryant had hit only two homers in his last 80 at-bats before connecting on each of his last two trips to the plate against the Bucs. He warmed up for those four-baggers by sending a hot grounder down the third-base line that went for a triple when it decided to snuggle up in the left-field corner. It had been 30 years since Wrigley fans last saw a Cubs player finish a game with two homers and a triple; the last to do it was Andre Dawson on June 2, 1987, en route to winning the MVP Award.

Arenado and Cruz jump over five All-Stars to take MLB’s lead in RBIs

Nolan Arenado singled, doubled and homered, driving in five runs in the Rockies’ 12-4 victory over the visiting White Sox. Arenado came into Friday tied with Nelson Cruz for sixth place in the majors with 63 RBIs. But during Friday evening, Arenado vaulted into the top spot on the strength of his five-RBI night. Arenado, now with 68 RBIs, had moved past Bryce Harper, Aaron Judge, Paul Goldschmidt, Marcell Ozuna and Jake Lamb, all in one night’s work.

Not so fast, said Cruz. The Mariners designated hitter, playing later in the evening, also knocked in five runs, capped by a three-run homer in the eighth inning, to leap over those same five All-Stars and to finish the night again tied with Arenado, but this time not for sixth place but for the major-league lead.

Nats’ 3-4-5 hitters never say die

The meat of the Nationals’ lineup did the heavy lifting over the game’s last two innings as Dusty Baker’s team rallied from a 4-1 ninth-inning deficit to defeat the Braves, 5-4, in 10 innings. Bryce Harper’s single started the three-run uprising in the ninth, and Daniel Murphy had an RBI single in the ninth and a walkoff hit in the tenth. Washington’s 3-4-5 hitters have batted a collective .330 this season. No major-league team has finished with such a high batting average from its 3-4-5 hitters since the Rockies (think Larry Walker, Jeff Cirillo, Todd Helton) produced a .334 mark from those slots in the 2000 season.

The Nationals had not won a game in which they had trailed by three-or-more runs in the ninth inning or later since April 23, 2014, when they had a comeback win of that sort against the Angels. Washington had lost the last 128 games in which it trailed by three-or-more runs in the ninth inning or later.

Goldy and Greinke leave opponents cranky

Paul Goldschmidt belted his 20th home run of the season and Zack Greinke picked up his 11th win of the season as the Diamondbacks topped the Reds, 6-3. Goldschmidt tied Jake Lamb for the team lead in home runs, and it marked only the second time that a pair of Arizona players have each reached the 20-homer mark before the All-Star break. Back in 1999, the second year of the team’s history, Jay Bell had 24 homers and Matt Williams 23 at the time of the mid-season classic.

Greinke has been unbeaten at home this season, with a 9-0 record in 11 starts in Phoenix. The right-hander matched the most wins without a loss in home games by any major-league pitcher prior to the All-Star Game over the past 63 years. Jordan Zimmermann was the last to go 9-0 at home before the break, doing it four years ago. The last guy to earn as many as 10 home wins without a loss before the All-Star break was the New York Giants’ Johnny Antonelli (10-0) in 1954.

Bradley hits homer against Rays… and that’s news

Dustin Pedroia and Jackie Bradley, Jr. smashed home runs off Jake Odorizzi, and Hanley Ramirez added one in the ninth inning as the Red Sox beat the Rays, 8-3, in St. Petersburg and gained a game in the standings on every other team in the division, each of which lost on Friday. Bradley’s opposite-field poke caught our eye, in that Bradley had entered the game with a .148 career batting average, with just two home runs and nine RBIs, in 54 games against Tampa Bay. Going 1-for-4 against the Rays on Friday night, Bradley lifted his batting average against Tampa Bay to .150, the lowest for any active player who has accumulated at least 150 at-bats against any big-league team.

It was the 13th consecutive game in which Odorizzi has allowed at least one home run, tying the Angels’ Jesse Chavez for the longest streak by any major-league pitcher in this, the Year of the Home Run. Chavez allowed homers in each of 13 straight games from April 21 to June 22.

Hamels: 2nd to Kershaw… read on

Cole Hamels allowed only three hits over seven and two-thirds innings as the Rangers blanked the visiting Angels, 10-0. Despite living on the disabled list for nearly two months of this season, Hamels is now 4-0, having limited opponents to a collective .211 batting average. Since joining the Rangers on July 31, 2015, Hamels has produced a 26-6 won-lost record; the resultant winning percentage of .813 is the second-highest in the majors among pitchers with 20-or-more decisions over that stretch, behind only Clayton Kershaw (.825 on a 33-7 record)

Twins spot the O’s a TD, win it with 3 field goals

The Twins spotted the Orioles a 6-0 early advantage built on three early home runs, but slow-and-steady won the race as Minnesota, without benefit of a single round-tripper, attained a 9-6 victory. How did the Twins do it? Every player in the lineup either scored or drove in at least one run, and Paul Molitor’s crew produced seven hits in 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position. That performance lifted the Twins’ season batting average with runners in scoring position to .254, the highest that it’s been since the first week in May.

Meanwhile, it was the second game that the Orioles have lost this season after leading by at least six runs. Back on April 28, the Orioles blew a 9-1 lead and wound up losing to the Yankees, 14-11. No other major-league team has lost two games after leading by six-plus runs this season.

Maurer earns a face-three-fan-three save

The Padres scored the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth and then Brandon Maurer closed the door—or should we say that he slammed the door as emphatically as possible—in a 4-3 victory at Philadelphia. Maurer faced three batters in the last of the ninth and struck them all out, becoming the 15th pitcher this season to earn a save in which he faced at least three batters and dispatched each on strikes. It was the first such save by a Padres pitcher in more than a year, since Fernando Rodney had a face-three-fan-three ninth inning against the Nationals on June 19 of last year.

Brantley rakes against the Tigers

Michael Brantley delivered a double and a single and knocked in four runs in support of Carlos Carrasco, who lifted his won-lost record to 10-3 with his fifth successive victory, 11-2, over the Tigers. Brantley boosted his career batting average against Detroit to .332, the fourth-highest career average against the Tigers among players whose major-league career began after World War II (minimum: 400 at-bats vs. Detroit). Among that group of players, only Wade Boggs (.356), Rod Carew (.340) and Ray Durham (.332) had higher averages against the Tigers than has Brantley (who trails Durham, .3319 to .3317). (By the way, Ted Williams batted .331 against the Tigers during his career, which began in 1939.)

deGrom yields 4 homers, but Mets win in St. Louis

The Cardinals out-homered the visiting Mets, 4-2, but that wasn’t enough as the Mets took a 6-5 decision in St. Louis. The Cardinals’ four homers, all solo blows, were surrendered by Jacob deGrom, who nonetheless earned his fifth victory in his last five starts. Only two other pitchers in Mets history have won games in which they yielded as many as four home runs—Rob Gardner against the Pirates in 1966 and Johan Santana against the Phillies in 2009.

In which category do the Marlins and the Mariners lead the majors?

Dee Gordon collected four of the Marlins' 16 hits while Dan Straily and Dustin McGowan held the Giants to just five hits in Miami's 6-1 win at San Francisco. It was the sixth time this season that the Marlins out-hit their opponents by a double-digit margin, which ties the Mariners for the most such games in the majors in 2017.