Sick game by Strasburg
Sickness did not deter Stephen Strasburg from taking the ball on Wednesday, and the Nationals are surely grateful for that. Strasburg racked up 12 strikeouts over seven scoreless innings at Wrigley Field, leading Washington to a 5–0 win in Game 4 and evening their series with the Cubs at two games apiece. Strasburg became the second pitcher in postseason history to record a win with 12 or more strikeouts and with his team facing elimination. The first pitcher with such a game was Joe Coleman, who totaled 14 strikeouts in a complete-game shutout to help the Tigers stave off elimination against the A’s in Game 3 of the 1972 ALCS. Detroit won in dramatic fashion the next day, overcoming a two-run deficit in the 10th inning to tie the series, but Oakland won the series finale to advance to the World Series.
Wednesday’s game marked the second time in the Division Series that Strasburg reached double-digits in strikeouts without being charged with an earned run (he allowed two unearned runs while striking out 10 in a Game 1 loss). Previously, only two other pitchers had multiple games with 10 or more strikeouts and no earned runs in a single postseason series. Sandy Koufax did that in the 1965 World Series against the Twins, throwing a complete-game shutout in Game 5 with 10 strikeouts and then repeating that feat three days later in Game 7. Justin Verlander was the other pitcher to do it, for the Tigers in their ALDS matchup with the A’s in 2013; Verlander struck out 11 in Game 2 and 10 in Game 5, and did not allow a run in either contest.
Taylor-made slam boosts Nationals
Michael Taylor provided the huge insurance blow for the Nationals, delivering a grand slam in the top of the eighth inning to give Washington a five-run cushion. Taylor had never produced an extra-base hit or an RBI in the postseason before that bases-loaded homer. Only three other players homered with the bases full in a postseason game after entering the at-bat with no career extra-base hits or RBIs in the postseason. That trio consists of Taylor’s current manager, Dusty Baker (1977 Dodgers), along with Eddie Perez (1998 Braves) and Troy O’Leary (1999 Red Sox).
Cubs closer Wade Davis, who allowed Taylor’s backbreaking blow, had not allowed an earned run in his last 22⅔ postseason innings entering Wednesday, though he did allow one unearned run during that stretch in Game 5 of the 2014 World Series. Davis’s streak of not allowing an earned run was the sixth-longest for a relief pitcher in postseason history; the record remains safely in the hands of Mariano Rivera (33⅓ innings).
Gregorius provides early offensive punch for Yanks
Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius homered in each of his two at-bats against Indians starter Corey Kluber to give the Yankees an early 3–0 lead. Gregorius became the first middle infielder to hit multiple home runs in a winner-take-all postseason game. He’s also the third player at any position to do so for the Yankees, joining Yogi Berra (1956 World Series) and Jason Giambi (2003 ALCS).
Indians fail to clinch yet again
The Indians won the first two games of the Division Series, but did not lead at any point of Games 3, 4, and 5. The only other team to experience that particular roller-coaster ride of a five-game series was the Astros against the Dodgers in 1981. (That best-of-five matchup also went by the name of “Division Series,” though it was created on an ad-hoc, one-year basis as part of the settlement of that year’s players strike.) Houston defeated Los Angeles twice at the Astrodome to take a 2–0 series lead, but the Dodgers responded with three wins in Los Angeles to clinch the series. The Dodgers did not trail at any point of their three home victories.
The Indians have lost each of their last four winner-take-all postseason home games: 1999 against Boston in the Division Series, 2013 against Tampa Bay in the Wild Card game, last year’s World Series decider against the Cubs, and Wednesday’s defeat to the Yankees. The only other teams that lost four such consecutive games are the Braves (four straight from 2002 to 2012) and the Athletics (five straight from 2000 to 2013).
The Indians have lost the last six games – home or road – in which they had a chance to eliminate an opponent from a postseason series: the last three games of the 2016 World Series against the Cubs and the last three games of this series. They tied the second-longest such streak in major-league history. The only team with a longer streak of that kind was the Athletics, who lost nine straight potential clinching games in the postseason from 2000 to 2003. Four other teams have had six-game losing streaks in postseason games that its opponent faced elimination: the Angels (1982–1986), Astros (1980–2004), Indians (1999–2007) and Rangers (2011–present).
Chapman closes door on Indians’ season
Aroldis Chapman struck out Austin Jackson looking to clinch Game 5 and the series for the Yankees, a fitting end to an ALDS that was riddled with strikeouts. The 31 combined strikeouts in Game 5 (16 by Indians pitchers, 15 by Yankees pitchers) were the most in any postseason game that did not extend into extra innings. The two teams combined for 125 strikeouts in the five-game set, representing the highest combined strikeout total for any best-of-five postseason series. Aaron Judge accounted for 16 of those strikeouts, the most for any player in a single postseason series of any length. No player had ever struck out four times in a postseason game as many as three times in his major-league career; Judge needed just six games this October to become the first to do that.
Penguins power past Capitals
Kris Letang, Patric Hornqvist and Conor Sheary each scored a power play goal for the Penguins in their 3–2 victory in Washington. This was only the second time since 2009 that the Penguins scored as many as three power play goals in a game against the Capitals, regular season (36 games) or playoffs (20 games). The Penguins’ other three-PPG game versus the Capitals over that stretch was a 5–2 win in Pittsburgh on Feb. 7, 2013. The Pens scored all five of their goals in that game in the second period, including power play goals by Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Sidney Crosby.
Eight goals in four games for Ovechkin
Alex Ovechkin scored the final goal in the Capitals’ loss to the Penguins, giving him a total of eight goals in Washington’s four games this season. Ovechkin has matched the highest goal total that any NHL player has produced over his team’s first four games of a season during the “modern era.” The other players with eight goals at the four-game mark since 1943–44 were Mud Bruneteau (1943–44 Red Wings), Bobby Hull (1965–66 Black Hawks), Don Murdoch (1976–77 Rangers), Peter Stastny (1982–83 Nordiques), Mark Parrish (2001–02 Islanders) and Patrick Marleau (2012–13 Sharks).
Youngsters score in pairs for Devils
Miles Wood and Pavel Zacha each scored their first two goals of the season to help lead the Devils to a 6–3 win against the Maple Leafs in Toronto. Wood (age 22) and Zacha (age 20) are the first pair of Devils players 22 years old or younger to each score at least two goals in the same game since Oct. 30, 1997, when three New Jersey youngsters each put in two goals in an 8–1 victory over the Canucks at the Meadowlands: Patrik Elias (age 21), Petr Sykora (age 20) and Denis Pederson (age 22).
Two men down? No problem for Gibbons
Brian Gibbons scored a shorthanded goal for the Devils in their win over the Maple Leafs and it came with an extra degree of difficulty as New Jersey was skating two men short at the time. It was the first 3-on-5 shorthanded goal in regular-season play in Devils franchise history, though Scott Niedermayer scored one versus Florida in the first round of the 2000 playoffs. Three-on-five shorthanded goals have been a rarity in the NHL in recent years. The only other such goal in the last six seasons was scored by Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien on Jan. 26, 2016 against Arizona.
Easy as 1-2-3 for Avalanche
The Avalanche beat the Bruins, 6–3, on Wednesday night on the strength of a three-goal second period. It was Colorado’s first three-goal period since a 5–3 win over the Sabres on February 25 of last season. The Avs scored three first-period goals in that game, but had gone 78 periods since that time without scoring at least three times in one session. That was the second-longest current streak in the league. The Sharks have gone 82 periods without lighting the lamp three times in any of them.
Fine help by Getzlaf
Ryan Getzlaf tallied two assists Wednesday night during the Ducks’ 3–2 win over the Islanders. It was the 118th multiple-assist game in Getzlaf’s career, all with the Ducks. The only player in franchise history with more multi-assist games than the Ducks captain is Teemu Selanne, who had at least two assists in 119 games for Anaheim.