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Elias Says: October 9, 2017

Bottom of batting order keeps Sox’ season alive

The Red Sox defeated the Astros, 10–3, with all 10 RBIs delivered by players batting in the sixth through ninth slots in the order: three each by Hanley Ramirez, Rafael Devers, and Jackie Bradley Jr, the other by Sandy Leon. It was the highest-scoring game in postseason history in which all of a team’s runs were driven in by the bottom four spots in the batting order.

Boston fell one short of the highest combined RBI total from the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth-place hitters. The Red Sox set that mark in a 23–7 win over the Indians in the first round in 1999, with RBIs from Trot Nixon (5), Jason Varitek (3), Scott Hatteberg (1), Darren Lewis (1), and Mike Stanley (1).

Price shuts down Astros in long relief outing

Joe Kelly was credited with the victory in the Red Sox’ win, but it was David Price who earned sidebar headlines for his four scoreless innings as a bridge from Kelly to Addison Reed. Over the last 30 years, only two other relievers pitched as many as four scoreless innings in a postseason victory but weren’t credited with a win or a save: Jeff Nelson of the Mariners against the Yankees in 1995 (first round), and Scott Feldman of the Rangers against the Tigers in 2011 (ALCS).

Bird’s blast gives Yankees 1–0 win

Greg Bird homered off Andrew Miller in the seventh inning to give the Yankees a 1–0 win over the Indians. There was only one other 1–0 result in postseason history in which a left-handed batter hit a home run off a left-handed pitcher. Cleveland was the losing team in that game also, and it surely stung a bit more than Sunday’s loss. It was Game 6 of the 1995 World Series, and with David Justice’s sixth-inning homer off Jim Poole, Atlanta clinched the Series in six games.

Prior to tonight’s game, Miller had allowed only three hits on 27 at-bats by left-handed batters in the postseason: a single by Eric Hosmer in 2014, and a double by Brock Holt and single by Anthony Rizzo in 2016. Miller struck Bird out in Game 1 of this series.

But Bird is no easy opponent. Injuries have limited his availability for the past two seasons, but his career home-run rate of one every 15.2 at-bats is virtually the same as those of Alex Rodriguez, Mike Schmidt, and Jimmie Foxx.

Smith and Chiefs win QB battle in Houston

Alex Smith threw for 324 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions as the Chiefs remained unbeaten with a 42-34 win in Houston. Smith became just the third player in NFL history to produce 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions over his team’s first five games of a season. Roman Gabriel did that with the Rams in 1969 and Steve Bartkowski with Atlanta in 1983.

Deshaun Watson threw five touchdown passes for Houston, tying the NFL single-game record for a rookie. That mark was originally set by Ray Buivid of the 1937 Bears, and later tied by Matthew Stafford in 2009 and Jameis Winston in 2015. Watson threw four touchdown passes last week against the Titans, and is the first rookie ever to throw as many as nine touchdown passes over two consecutive NFL games.

Wentz makes Eagles history with fast start

Carson Wentz threw four touchdown passes, including three in the first quarter, as the Eagles rolled to a 34–7 victory over the Cardinals. As we first reported Sunday, Wentz was the first Eagles player to throw three TD passes in the first quarter of a game. Without the restriction of 140 characters, it’s worth highlighting that the Eagles are playing their 84th season in the NFL; their quarterbacks have included noted passers such as Norm Van Brocklin, Sonny Jurgensen, Roman Gabriel, Ron Jaworski, Randall Cunningham, and Donovan McNabb. To view it statistically, Sunday’s game was the 150th in which an Eagles player threw at least three touchdown passes; Wentz was the first to do it the opening period.

Wentz was also the first player to throw three touchdown passes in the first quarter against the Cardinals, a charter member of the NFL who played their first game in 1920.

Packers win at Dallas in game’s final seconds

Aaron Rodgers threw three touchdown passes, the last one to Davante Adams with 11 seconds remaining, to rally the Packers to a 35–31 victory at Dallas. It was the latest fourth-quarter game-winning touchdown ever scored by a visiting team against the Cowboys.

Sunday’s score was almost identical to the one by which the Cowboys lost to the Rams a week earlier (35–30). Dallas is only the second team in NFL history to lose consecutive games, both at home, despite scoring at least 30 points in each. The Lions lost by scores of 34–31 to Houston and 35–33 to Indianapolis at Ford Field in 2012.

Seahawks’ defense halts Rams’ high-powered attack

After falling behind, 10–0, Seattle shut out the Rams in the second half and rallied for a 16–10 victory. Over the first four weeks of the season, the Rams led the NFL in scoring with an average of 35.5 points per game. It was the second time this season that a team averaging at least 35.0 points per game was held to 10 or less; the first was Washington’s 27–10 win over the Oakland two weeks ago. But it hadn’t happened this far into a season since 2000, when Carolina defeated the Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf,” 16–3.

Roethlisberger throws two pick-6’s among 5 INTs

Telvin Smith and Barry Church scored on interception returns less than 3 minutes apart to fuel Jacksonville’s 30–9 victory at Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger hadn’t thrown a pick-six in more than four years (since Sept. 22, 2013), and he joined Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Matthew Stafford as the only active players to throw two in the same quarter.

But things were even worse than that for Roethlisberger, who was intercepted a total of five times. On the other hand, he’s in the company of six other quarterbacks who threw at least five INTs in one game without a touchdown after winning a Super Bowl. The first of those was Bart Starr himself, 50 years ago. Coming off a win over the Chiefs in the first Super Bowl, Starr opened the 1967 season throwing four interceptions in a 17–17 tie against the Lions; a week later, he threw five INTs in a 13–10 win over the Bears. Starr didn’t throw a TD pass in either game. So after two weeks, he had thrown nine INTs and no touchdowns, but the Packers stood at 1–0–1.

The other Super Bowl winners on that list include the rogues’ gallery of Joe Namath, Terry Bradshaw, and Ken Stabler, and also Drew Brees and Eli Manning.

Rookie Fournette stars vs. Steelers

Leonard Fournette gained 181 yards on 28 carries in the Jaguars’ win, by far the most rushing yards ever by a rookie against the Steelers. The previous high was 137 by Boyce Green of the Browns in 1983. Even more impressive is the fact that only two players, whether a rookie or a veteran, had more rushing yards against the Steelers in a game played at Pittsburgh than Fournette: O.J. Simpson, 227 yards (1975); and Fred Taylor of the Jaguars, 234 yards in 2000.

Vinatieri steals the show from younger teammates

There were heroes aplenty in the Colts’ 26–23 overtime win over the 49ers. T.Y. Hilton caught seven passes for 177 yards, the highest total by an Indianapolis receiver since Hilton’s 223-yard performance at Houston in 2014. Jacoby Brissett passed for a career-high 314 yards and scored his third touchdown in his last three games. Marlon Mack’s 22-yard touchdown run was the longest by a Colts rookie since 2002.

But it was 44-year-old Adam Vinatieri who delivered the dagger in the form of a 51-yard field goal. It was Vinatieri’s 10th game-winning field goal in regular-season overtime, breaking a tie with four other players to set a new NFL record in that category. Only two players older than Vinatieri scored an overtime game-winner, whether a TD or FG, in the regular-season or the playoffs: George Blanda (twice at age 48) and Morten Andersen (46).

Jets win? To quote Zappa, we figure the odds be 50–50

The Jets defeated the Browns, 17–14, to improve to 3–2 this season. Although you’d never know it by listening to New York sports-talk radio—and with offices in Manhattan, we are experts on that topic—the Jets have now won 20 of their last 40 games, dating back to December 2014. That’s a better record over that span than the Giants or Eagles (both 19–21), the Saints (18–21), or any of the three Florida teams, among others.

Strong debut for #1 pick

There was one bright spot for the Browns in their loss. Myles Garrett, the first pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, made his NFL debut and was credited with two sacks. Over the last 10 seasons, only four other players were credited with two sacks in their first game in the league: Ryan Delaire of the Panthers (2015), Howard Jones of the Bucs (2015), Joey Bosa of the Chargers (2016), and T.J. Watt of the Steelers (2017).

Cam is back!

Cam Newton passed for 355 yards and three touchdowns in the Panthers’ 27–24 win at Detroit. In seven seasons in the NFL, it was Newton’s highest yardage total in a game in which he did not throw an interception.

Gordon leads Chargers to their first win of 2017

The Chargers defeated the Giants, 27–22, in a game between a pair of previously winless teams. It was the first meeting of teams that were both 0–4 or worse since 2004, when the Bills (0–4) hosted the Dolphins (0–5) and Buffalo came away with a 20–13 victory.

Melvin Gordon gained 105 yards on 20 carries and caught a 10-yard touchdown pass with less than 3 minutes to play to give the Chargers their victory. Gordon was the first player in the last 10 seasons to cap a 100-yard rushing performance with a game-winning TD catch in the final 5 minutes of the fourth quarter. The last player to do so was Brian Westbrook of the Eagles against the Redskins in 2007.

Green solves Bills’ pass defense

A.J. Green caught seven passes for 189 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown, in the Bengals’ 20–16 victory over the Bills. Over the last two decades, Buffalo has traditionally had one of the NFL’s top pass defenses, ranking among the top six teams in nine of the past 18 seasons (1999–2016). During that time, only two players had more receiving yards in a game against the Bills than Green had on Sunday: Chris Chambers of the Dolphins in 2005 (15 catches for 238 yards) and Wes Welker for the Patriots in 2011 (16 for 217).

Cutler tops Cassel nine years later

Revenge was a long time coming. But Jay Cutler led the Dolphins to a 16–10 win over the Titans, whose starting quarterback, Matt Cassel, had led the Patriots to a rout of Cutler’s Broncos in their only previous head-to-head matchup, nine years ago. In October 2008, starting in place of Tom Brady, Cassel threw three touchdown passes as the Patriots routed the first-place Broncos, 41–7, on Monday Night Football.

Lundqvist celebrates MSG milestone with shutout

Henrik Lundqvist posted his first shutout of the season and the 62nd regular-season shutout of his NHL career with a 2–0 win on home ice against Carey Price and the Canadiens. Entering the game, Price had won his last seven regular-season starts versus Lundqvist (dating back to February 2013), allowing a total of six goals in the process. But over the same span Lundqvist had a 5–2 record in seven playoff starts against Price (one game in 2014 and six in 2017).

Lundqvist’s win on Sunday came in his 400th regular-season game at Madison Square Garden. (His regular-season record at MSG is 228–125–40.) Only two other goaltenders in NHL history played at least 400 regular-season games in one arena: Tony Esposito at Chicago Stadium (473) and Martin Brodeur at the Meadowlands (445).