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Elias Says: April 16, 2017

Spurs overcome early deficit to win big

The Spurs trailed 30–25 at the end of the first quarter but stormed back to defeat the Grizzlies, 111–82 in Game 1 of their first-round series. San Antonio’s 29-point margin of victory was the second-largest in NBA playoff history by a team that trailed by at least five points after 12 minutes of play. The Mavericks came back from a seven-point, end-of-first-quarter deficit to beat the Jazz, 107–77 in Game 4 of a first-round series in 2001.

It’s the fifth time that the Spurs and Grizzlies have played each other in a playoff series, and in four of those San Antonio has won the opening game by at least 20 points. That’s the second-highest total of Game 1 blowouts by one NBA team over another. The Celtics have won by 20+ points in the first game of six of the 15 postseason series they’ve played against the Knicks.

James, Cavs barely hold on despite good shooting performances

LeBron James made 12 of 20 shots from the floor and his teammates combined to shoot 30-for-58, but the Cavaliers needed C.J. Miles to miss a potential buzzer-beater in order to hold off the Pacers, 109–108. Including Saturday, James’s teams are 15–0 in the playoffs and 120–2 in the regular season when he shoots better than 50% and the rest of his teammates combine to do the same. In fact, only one previous postseason win had been decided by fewer than 10 points – a one-point overtime decision by Cleveland over Washington in 2006.

Johnson’s buzzer-beater gives Jazz the win in Game 1

Joe Johnson’s floating jumper bounced into the net with no time left on the clock as the Jazz opened their series with a 97–95 road win over the Clippers. The last team to win Game 1 of a playoff series on a game-ending buzzer-beater was the Heat, on LeBron James’s overtime shot against the Pacers in the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals. The last player hit a Game 1 buzzer-beater on the road was the Suns’ Stephon Marbury, who hit a three-pointer in a one-point overtime win at San Antonio in the first round in 2003.

Antetokounmpo’s freakish shooting leads Milwaukee

Giannis Antetokounmpo made 13 of 18 field-goal attempts (72.2%) as the Bucks won 97–83 at Toronto. The Raptors, like all five Canadian teams in the NHL playoffs, lost their first postseason game in 2017. Antetokounmpo is the first Milwaukee player to make at least 70% of his shots while attempting at least 15 field goals in a postseason game since Ricky Pierce went 13-for-17 (76.5%) in an overtime win over the Hawks in the first round of the 1989 playoffs.

Rinne posts second straight road shutout

Pekka Rinne and the Predators will head home to Nashville having posted 1–0 and 5–0 wins at Chicago in the first two games of their opening-round series against the Blackhawks. This is only the fifth time in NHL history that a team recorded a road shutout in each of its first two games of a playoff year. The other clubs to do that were the 1936 Red Wings (at Montreal Maroons; Normie Smith in goal), 1983 Sabres (at Montreal Canadiens; Bob Sauve), 1995 Devils (at Boston; Martin Brodeur) and 2001 Maple Leafs (at Ottawa; Curtis Joseph.) Rinne is the first NHL goaltender to produce a shutout, home or away, in each of the first two games of any playoff series since the Flyers’ Michael Leighton did so in Philadelphia against the Canadiens in the 2010 Eastern Conference Final. The Flyers’ head coach that year is the current Nashville bench boss, Peter Laviolette.

Rinne was credited with a pair of assists in the Predators’ victory on Saturday. He’s the fourth goaltender in NHL history to notch two assists in one playoff game. The others are Edmonton’s Grant Fuhr in 1991, Pittsburgh’s Tom Barrasso in 1993 and Montreal’s Jose Theodore in 2004. Barrasso (a 7–0 win vs. New Jersey) and Rinne are the only ones to do so while also posting a shutout.

Defenseman Phaneuf is the offensive star for Ottawa

Dion Phaneuf scored the overtime goal for the Senators which gave them a 4–3 victory over the Bruins and tied their series at one win each, after assisting on the third-period goals by Chris Wideman and Derick Brassard which enabled Ottawa to overcome a 3–1 deficit. Phaneuf is only third defenseman in NHL history to produce a three-point game in the Stanley Cup playoffs with an overtime goal among those points. Denis Potvin was the first defenseman to do that, for the Islanders at Philadelphia in Game 1 of the 1980 Stanley Cup Final. Eric Desjardins was the second, pulling off that feat for the Canadiens versus the Kings in Game 2 of the 1993 Stanley Cup Final. Desjardins did it again two years later, this time for the Flyers in the first game of their second-round series against the Rangers in 1995.

The Senators’ victory on Saturday marked only the second time in team history that they won a playoff game in which they trailed by two goals in the third period. Ottawa’s other comeback win of that kind was a 3–2 overtime victory over Montreal in Game 4 of a first-round series in 2013.

Kapanen scores twice, including winner in double-OT

Rookie Kasperi Kapanen scored his second goal of the game at the 11:53 mark of the second overtime period to earn the Maple Leafs a 4–3 victory in Game 2 of their series against the Capitals. At age 20 years, 266 days, Kapanen is the third-youngest NHL player ever to score a multiple-overtime goal in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The players younger than Kapanen to do that were Toronto’s Jack McLean in 1943 at Detroit (age 20 years, 51 days) and the Canadiens’ Gus Rivers in 1930 against the Rangers (age 20 years, 129 days). McLean and Rivers each scored their OT winners in the fourth overtime period.

Kapanen is only the second rookie in the NHL’s expansion era to score two goals in a playoff game with the second one a multiple-overtime winner. The other rookie to do that since 1968 was Adam Henrique in Game 7 of the Devils’ first-round series against the Panthers in 2012. Kapanen is the first rookie to score two goals in a playoff game for the Maple Leafs since Steve Thomas did so three times in 1986 (twice at Chicago and once versus St. Louis.)

Paxton unscored upon in three games

James Paxton, making his third appearance of the season, threw eight scoreless innings in the Mariners’ 5–0 home win over the Rangers. Paxton also didn’t allow a run in either of his first two appearances in 2017, starts of six and seven innings. He’s the fourth pitcher in American League history to throw at least six innings without allowing a run in each of his first three games of a season. The first three were Ray Caldwell of the 1914 Yankees, Luis Tiant of the 1966 Indians, and Jordan Zimmermann of the 2016 Tigers.

Astros’ offense launches in the seventh inning

The Astros, who were held hitless until Norichika Aoki’s single leading off the seventh inning, defeated the Athletics, 10–6. The last major-league team to reach a double-digit run total in a game in which it didn’t have a hit over the first six innings was the Tigers, in a 10–4 win at Cleveland on July 19, 1969. And because Houston was the team that did this on Saturday, we’ll point out that the 1969 game took place the day before Apollo 11 landed on the moon.

Second baseman Ramirez drives in six

Jose Ramirez was 4-for-4 with two home runs and six RBIs in the Indians’ 13–6 home win over the Tigers. Ramirez tied the franchise’s single-game record for runs batted in by a second baseman, last done by Duane Kuiper at Yankee Stadium on July 27, 1978. The last Cleveland second baseman with four hits and six RBIs in a game was Riggs Stephenson on Sept. 1, 1924. Stephenson, like Ramirez, hit two homers in his game, a 13–2 road win in the second game of a doubleheader against the St. Louis Browns.

Santana one-hits White Sox

Ervin Santana allowed one hit in his complete-game 6–0 home win over the White Sox. April 15 is the second-earliest calendar date on which a pitcher has thrown a complete-game no-hitter or one-hitter for the Twins franchise. Walter Johnson allowed one hit in a 3–0, season-opening win for the Washington Senators over the Philadelphia Athletics on April 14, 1910. Before that game, William Howard Taft started the tradition of the president throwing out the first pitch of the season (to Johnson, on that day.)

Lots of walks and strikeouts for Carlos Martinez

Carlos Martinez walked eight and struck out 11 in the Cardinals’ 3–2 loss at Yankee Stadium. No pitcher had put up as many walks and strikeouts in one game since Randy Johnson walked eight and fanned 14 in a complete-game loss to the Athletics in June 1993. In the era before pitch counts were monitored as closely as they are today, it wasn’t extremely uncommon for a pitcher to have eight walks and 11 strikeouts in a game; Nolan Ryan did that 13 times, including once in a no-hitter.

Marlins hit two pairs of tying and go-ahead back-to-back homers

Justin Bour and Marcell Ozuna hit consecutive home runs to start the second inning to give the Marlins a 2–1 lead, and then Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton connected for back-to-back blasts in the eighth inning to end the scoring in the Marlins’ 5–4 home win over the Mets. The last major-league team to hit at least two pairs of back-to-back homers in one game where the first tied the game and the second gave it the lead was the Pirates at Cincinnati on April 14, 2014. Pittsburgh actually did it three times in that game. Neil Walker and Gaby Sanchez did it in the second and sixth innings, and Starling Marte and Travis Snider did so in the fifth.

The Marlins have hit two pairs of back-to-back home runs, regardless of the situation, in only one other game. On Aug. 27, 2010, Cameron Maybin and Logan Morrison went deep in the first inning, and then Dan Uggla and the very same Gaby Sanchez connected in the sixth of a 7–1 win at Atlanta.

Pirates overcome late deficit to beat Cubs

Andrew McCutchen’s three-run home run in the seventh inning helped the Pirates come from behind to beat the Cubs, 8–7 at Wrigley Field. Pittsburgh, which trailed 6–3 after six innings, is the first team to win a March or April road game over the previous season’s World Series champions after trailing by at least three runs in the seventh inning or later since the Phillies won, 9–3 at Dodger Stadium in 1982 despite being behind, 3–0 entering the eighth. The offensive stars for Philadelphia in that game were 41-year-old Pete Rose, who went 5-for-5, and Julio Franco, who had three hits and two RBIs at age 23 in his fifth major-league game. Franco would still be in the majors 25 years later.

Winker’s first hit is a double, game-winning RBI

Jesse Winker’s first major-league hit was a pinch-hit two-run double that snapped a 4–4 tie in the sixth inning of the Reds’ 7–5 win over the visiting Brewers. The last Cincinnati player to have his first big-league hit go for extra bases and drive in the eventual game-winning run was pitcher Brett Tomko, who doubled against the Mets in June 1997. The last Reds position player to do that was catcher Dann Bilardello, in April 1983 against the Cubs.

Sale fans 12 in first Boston win

Chris Sale struck out 12 Tampa Bay batters in seven innings to earn a 2–1 win, his first victory in a Boston uniform. Sale’s dozen strikeouts are the most by a pitcher in his first win for the Red Sox. The previous record was 11, by Don Aase (1977), Pedro Martinez (1998), and Hideo Nomo (2001.)

Braves pitchers are enjoying Cumberland

One night after opening SunTrust Park with a 5–2 win, the Braves once again defeated the Padres, this time by a score of 4–2. Atlanta is the first home team since 1969 to win and hold its opponents to two-or-fewer runs in each of the first two major-league games at a stadium. That year, the expansion Padres won the first two games at San Diego Stadium (the venue now known as Qualcomm Park) by scores of 2–0 and 2–1 over the Astros. And a little over a week later, the brand new Seattle Pilots beat the White Sox, 7–0 and 5–1 in their first two contests at Sick’s Stadium.

Two Kansas City players already have five homers

Mike Moustakas’s fifth home run of the season broke a 2–2 tie in the bottom of the eighth inning and the Royals improved their record to 5–6 with a 3–2 win over the visiting Angels Saturday. On Friday, Salvador Perez hit his fifth homer of the season for Kansas City. Moustakas and Perez are the first pair of Royals teammates ever to reach five home runs in before the team’s 16th game of the season.

Morales ends it quickly in the ninth

Kendrys Morales hit the first pitch of the bottom of the ninth inning over the right-center field fence to give the Blue Jays a 2–1 win over the Orioles. The last Toronto player to hit a walkoff home run on the first pitch of an inning was Eric Hinske, against the Red Sox in July 2002.

Dodgers catcher Barnes hits first home run

Austin Barnes hit his first major-league home run in the second inning of the Dodgers’ 8–4 home win over the Diamondbacks. Barnes is the sixth Los Angeles player to hit his first big-league homer at Dodger Stadium as a catcher, joining Steve Yeager (1972), Mike Scioscia (1980), Mike Piazza (1992), Dioner Navarro (2005), and Russell Martin (2006.)

Chatwood blanks Giants

Tyler Chatwood threw a complete-game two-hitter as the Rockies beat the Giants, 5–0 in San Francisco to improve their record to 8–5. Only one Colorado pitcher has ever tossed a complete-game shutout earlier than the team’s 13th game. Ubaldo Jimenez threw the team’s only no-hitter at Atlanta in the Rockies’ 11th game of the 2010 season.

Hernandez’s late homer is decisive for Phils

Cesar Hernandez broke a 2–2 tie with a two-run home run in the eighth inning of the Phillies’ 4–2 win at Washington. It was Hernandez’s second homer in 2017, and both have been game-winning RBIs – his first-inning shot in the season-opener at Cincinnati gave Philadelphia a lead it would not relinquish. Before 2017, none of Hernandez’s eight career home runs drove in the eventual game-winning run. Hernandez’s first two homers, in 2014 and 2015, also came in the eighth inning. Saturday’s blast was his first since then to come later than the seventh frame.