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Elias Says: May 13, 2017

Wall’s game-winner forces Game Seven

John Wall, who made only one of nine first-half field-goal attempts, hit a three-point field goal with less than four seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to lift the Wizards to a 92-91 win over the Celtics and force a winner-take-all game on Monday night. It was the first go-ahead or game-tying three-pointer in the last 10 seconds of the fourth quarter or an overtime period by a player whose team was facing playoff elimination since the Heat’s Ray Allen hit a corner three to knot Game Six of the 2013 Finals against the Spurs with 5.2 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. The Heat won that game in overtime and took Game Seven three nights later.

The home team has won each of the first six games in the Celtics-Wizards series, the first time that such a thing has happened in the NBA playoffs since 2008, when home teams won the first six games of three different series.

Neal’s OT goal puts Predators in a familiar spot

James Neal’s overtime goal gave the Predators a 3-2 victory at Anaheim in Game One of the Western Conference Final. Nashville also opened each of its two previous series in this year’s playoffs with a road win: 1-0 at Chicago in the first round and 4-3 at St. Louis in the second. The Predators became the fifth team in the NHL’s expansion era to win Game One on the road in each of its first three playoff series in one year. The other teams to do it since 1968 were the Minnesota North Stars in both 1981 (first three series) and 1991 (all four series), the Ducks in 2003 (first three) and the Kings in 2012 (all four series). Of those four teams, only the Kings went on to win the Stanley Cup.

Neal’s goal was the 23rd of his NHL playoff career but his first in a Conference Final or Stanley Cup Final series. His only previous postseason experience in a series later than the second round was with Pittsburgh in the 2013 Eastern Conference Final against the Bruins. Neal played in all four games but did not produce a point as the Penguins were swept. Before Neal scored his game-winner on Friday, his career total of 22 playoff goals was third-highest among active NHL players who had never scored a postseason goal after the second round. The top two players on that list are Washington’s Alex Ovechkin (46 goals) and Nicklas Backstrom (26 goals), who have played 12 and 10 seasons, respectively, in the NHL but have never played a game in a Conference Final or Stanley Cup Final.

Sano and Santana combine for first-of-a-kind Twins win

The Twins’ two best players this season, Miguel Sano and Ervin Santana, were the stars of a 1-0 victory for Paul Molitor’s squad in Cleveland. Sano’s first-inning home run, his 10th homer of the season, provided the game’s only run while Santana went seven innings to lower his ERA to 1.50. That’s the lowest ERA for a Minnesota pitcher through his first eight starts of a season since Scott Erickson began the 1991 season at 1.44 through eight starts. Erickson went on to win 20 games that season and the Twins went on to win the World Series.

How often do you see a 1-0 game in which the only run comes on a first-inning homer? Well, there were no such games in the major leagues all of last season and only one in 2015 (Albert Pujols supplied the home run against the A’s on June 13 of that year, and T. J. Wilson earned the victory). Moreover, it was the first 1-0 victory featuring a first-inning home run in the history of the franchise, dating back to its beginnings in Washington in 1901.

Posey’s 17th-inning HR breaks record held by Willie Mays

Buster Posey cracked a home run in the 17th inning to bring an end to a marathon game in San Francisco, with the Giants going home as 3-2 winners over the Reds. Posey’s wee-hours smash broke a team record long held by Willie Mays: It was the latest inning for a walk-off homer in Giants history. Previously, the latest walk-off homer for the Giants was hit by Mays in the 16th inning on July 2, 1963, providing his team with a 1-0 victory in a double-complete-game effort by future Hall-of-Famers Juan Marichal and Warren Spahn.

Contreras hits 2 HRs to help new batterymate win

Willson Contreras belted a pair of home runs in support of starter Eddie Butler, making his Cubs debut, and the defending champs held on to take a 3-2 decision in St. Louis. Butler, who produced a 6.50 ERA in 36 appearances with the Rockies, pitched no-run, two-hit ball over six innings. Contreras became only the second catcher in Cubs history to enjoy a two-homer game in St. Louis. Back on July 4, 1952, rookie Toby Atwell homered twice at old Sportsman’s Park, but in a 13-7 loss to the Cardinals.

Kershaw beats Rockies, earns yet more distinctions

Clayton Kershaw picked up his 20th victory over the Rockies—breaking a tie with Randy Johnson for the most by any pitcher, past or present—as the Dodgers won in Denver, 6-2. It was Kershaw’s 12th win in his last 13 decisions against the Rockies, and while he danced around some early trouble through five innings, he set the Rockies down in order in the sixth and seventh before calling it a night. In his 19 starts at Coors Field, Kershaw is now 9-4 with an ERA of 4.58, and with his ninth win, he surpassed Greg Maddux for the most wins as a visitor there. And Kershaw’s 20-6 career mark against Colorado yields the highest winning percentage (.769) against any big-league team by any active pitchers with at least 20 decisions against that team.

Cody Bellinger homered late in the game, his seventh home run in 62 major-league at-bats. Only one player who made his major-league debut with the Dodgers has hit his first seven round-trippers in so few at-bats: Matt Kemp reached seven homers in his first 45 at-bats in 2006.

Rangers follow previous night’s script

Joey Gallo clobbered a three-run homer in the last of the ninth, breaking a 2-2 tie and giving the Rangers a 5-2 victory over the Athletics. It was the second straight game that the Rangers have won, 5-2, with a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth; Mike Napoli ended Thursday night’s game against the Padres in that manner. It’s the second time this season that a team has won consecutive games on walkoff homers; Ryon Healy and Jed Lowrie of the Athletics did that on May 7-8 against the Tigers and the Angels, respectively. The last time that the Rangers won consecutive games with walkoff homers, they actually turned the trick three games in a row, with Geovany Soto, Leonys Martin and Adrian Beltre providing game-ending blows against the Angels on the last three days of July 2013.

Ex-Yankee and ex-Yankee’s son combine to beat Yankees

Lance McCullers, Jr. tossed six scoreless innings and Brian McCann blasted a three-run homer in the Astros’ 5-1 victory at Yankee Stadium. McCullers, whose father pitched for the Yankees in 1989 and 1990, became only the second son of a former Yankees pitcher to start and win a game against the Bombers in the Bronx. Todd Stottlemyre defeated the Yankees six times at the previous version of Yankee Stadium between 1990 and 1998; his father Mel was the Yankees’ staff ace in the late sixties and early seventies.

McCullers had faced the Yankees once previously, earning credit for a 4-1 win in Houston last July in which the only run he surrendered in a six-inning outing came on a solo homer by McCann, then with the Yankees. McCann played three years for Joe Girardi’s squad, during which the total of 46 home runs that he hit in the Bronx was by far the highest by anyone in pinstripes.

Rays pin 5th loss on Porcello

Evan Longoria homered and doubled off Rick Porcello, helping the Rays to a 5-0 lead in Fenway, then held on through a ragged seventh inning and came away the winners, 5-4. Porcello, who won the 2016 American League Cy Young Award on the strength of a 22-4 won-lost record, fell to 2-5 this season. This marks the fourth time in the last five seasons that a defending Cy Young winner has found himself tagged with as many as five losses by May 12. R. A. Dickey suffered his fifth loss of 2013 on May 4, Corey Kluber took loss number five on May 7, 2015, and Dallas Keuchel suffered the same fate as Porcello a year to the day earlier, on May 12 of last year.

Brewers show Harvey no mercy

The Brewers belted four home runs in a game for the first time this season and took the major-league home-run lead by boosting their total to 59 homers in 36 games, all on the way to a 7-4 victory over the Mets. Matt Harvey, in his first game back from a team-imposed suspension, lost for the third time in his last three starts, over which span he has permitted 17 runs (all earned), 20 hits and 13 walks in fewer than 15 innings pitched. Harvey’s career won-lost record fell to 31-31, the first time that he has been at .500 since he lifted his record to 6-5 with a win at Minnesota on April 13, 2013.

Hosmer’s late hit tops Orioles

Eric Hosmer’s RBI double snapped a 2-2 tie in the eighth inning and gave the Royals their victory margin over the visiting Orioles, 3-2. Hosmer, who batted .225 in April, is now batting .413 in May, with 19 hits in 46 at-bats. Hosmer is tied for the second-most hits in the majors during May; Jean Segura leads with 20, while Xander Bogaerts also has 19.

A couple of streaks end as Braves beat Marlins

Mike Foltynewicz earned his first victory since last September, as the Braves scored six-or-more runs in an inning for the first time since last August, in Atlanta’s 8-4 victory in Miami. Tyler Flowers had a pair of two-run hits—a homer in the second inning and a single in the big seventh—matching his total of two-run hits over 24 previous games this season.

Every other major-league team had produced at least one inning of six-or-more runs since the Braves’ last inning of that type, last August 6 at St. Louis.

Hedges clubs 8th homer as Padres top White Sox

Padres catcher Austin Hedges hit a two-run double in the third inning and then homered in the fifth as San Diego took a 6-3 decision from the White Sox in Chicago. Padres catchers are batting .174 this season, second-lowest among National League teams, ahead of only the Diamondbacks (.165). But San Diego’s backstops lead the senior circuit with eight home runs this season (all by Hedges) and they stand second to the Mets (25) with 21 RBIs (20 of them by Hedges).