Elias Says: June 20, 2017

Kershaw wins, thanks to Bellinger and Turner

The game of the night took place at Dodger Stadium, where Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner each knocked in four runs while Clayton Kershaw allowed four homers in a game for the first time in his big-league career but defeated the Mets, 10-6.

Let’s start with Bellinger, who homered twice to increase his season total to 21, which now leads the National League. Having played just 51 games, Bellinger has reached 21 homers in fewer games than anyone in major-league history; the old mark was set by Wally Berger in 1930; he hit his 21st homer in his 55th game. It was Bellinger’s fifth multiple-homer game, giving him the major-league record for the fewest games needed to accumulate five multiple-homer games.

Turner, against his former team, went 4-for-4 to lift his batting average to .399. That’s far higher than the average of the major leagues’ batting leader (Buster Posey, .347), but Turner, who missed time due to injury earlier this season, is about 10 days to two weeks away from accumulating the requisite total of plate appearances to be considered among the official leaders.

Kershaw allowed home runs to Jay Bruce (the third of his career off Kershaw), Gavin Cecchini (his first in the majors against anyone) and Jose Reyes (who became the fifth player to hit two in a game off Kershaw). It was the 13th game in which Kershaw allowed six-or-more runs, but it was the first of those games in which he was the winning pitcher.

Zunino taking our breath away

Mike Zunino broke a 2-2 tie with a sixth-inning two-run homer, then hit another two-run homer in the eighth inning for insurance in what turned out to be a 6-2 Mariners victory over the Tigers. Zunino came into June with a .190 batting average with one homer and four RBIs in 32 games. But during June, the Seattle catcher is batting .385 (20 for 52) with eight homers and 26 RBIs in only 15 games! With 11 days remaining in the month, Zunino already has the most RBIs in a month by a Mariners player since Raul Ibanez had 31 RBIs in 28 games during August 2008.

The Rizzo Show comes back to Wrigley

The Cubs defeated the Padres, 3-2, on Monday night, and you can bet that the Wrigley fans were in their seats early. They surely didn’t want to miss the Anthony Rizzo-in-the-first-inning show, and the Cubs’ first baseman didn’t disappoint. Rizzo, in his sixth game as the Cubs’ leadoff batter, surprised the Padres with a bunt single toward third base to lengthen a pair of impressive streaks. It was the 10th consecutive first-inning plate appearance in which Rizzo reached base, and it was his eighth consecutive first-inning hit. The last major-league player who had streaks of either type as long as Rizzo’s was Andrew McCutchen, reached base safely (hit, walk or hit batsman) in each of 10 straight first-inning plate appearances, and had eight consecutive first-inning hits, in 2015.

Bour’s salami keys Marlins’ comeback

Justin Bour’s grand-slam home run helped wipe out the Nationals’ early 6-0 lead, and the Marlins finished off the comeback with a walkoff hit by Marcell Ozuna in an exhilarating 8-7 win. Bour’s homer, his 18th of the season, was his 14th in the last 29 games in which he has played. The only other Marlins players who have hit 14 homers over 30 games within one season were Giancarlo Stanton (in 2012 and 2015) and Dan Uggla (in 2008).

It marked the first time that the Marlins had won a game by overcoming a deficit as large as six runs since they did it on July 28, 2014, also against the Nationals. Those are the Marlins’ only victories of that kind over the last eight seasons.

Kluber goes all the way in 12-0 win

The Indians clobbered Dylan Bundy and Vidal Nuno to the tune of 11 runs over the game’s middle three innings, but Corey Kluber was nevertheless permitted to pitch a complete game as Cleveland won its sixth straight contest, 12-0, in Baltimore. Terry Francona’s squad had amassed 52 runs over those six games, marking the first time since 2013 that the Indians have scored 50-plus runs over the course of a six-game winning streak.

Kluber, who blanked the White Sox on three hits on April 21, became the second major-leaguer to toss multiple shutouts this season. (Ervin Santana has pitched three shutouts this year.) Kluber became only the eighth big-league pitcher over the last eight seasons to throw a complete-game shutout of at least nine innings in a game in which his team scored at least a dozen runs. (One of those whitewashes was a no-hitter by Jake Arrieta at Cincinnati last year.) The 12-0 victory represented the most runs in a shutout win by any big-league team this season.

Edwin Encarnacion finished with four at-bats, four runs scored and one hit. The old 4-4-1 boxscore line is pretty unusual. When last seen in the majors, it was done by Gregor Blanco of the Giants in 2013. The last Indians player to dial 4-4-1? A fellow named Josh Clarke, who did it against Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics back on Aug. 24, 1908!

Springer hits 20th HR

George Springer belted his 20th homer of the season, one of three hit by the Astros in their 4-1 triumph in Oakland. All 20 of Springer’s home runs have been hit from the leadoff spot in the lineup; last season, he hit 20 of his 29 homers from the top spot. Besides Springer, only one other Astros player has hit 20 homers in a season from the leadoff spot—the Hall-of-Famer Craig Biggio, who did it four times.

Morales comes through in the clutch

Kendrys Morales delivered a tiebreaking RBI single in the ninth inning to lift the Blue Jays to a 7-6 victory over the Rangers in Arlington. It was a welcome late-inning clutch hit for Morales, who had carried a .182 batting average (10 hits in 55 at-bats) with runners in scoring position into the game. While playing with the Royals over the past two seasons, Morales batted .324 with runners in scoring position and produced 151 RBIs in those spots, tying Edwin Encarnacion for the third-highest total in the majors over those two seasons, behind Nolan Arenado (178) and Anthony Rizzo (152).

Cole’s formula: rinse, repeat

Gerrit Cole allowed only one run and three hits over seven innings and earned the victory as the Pirates took an 8-1 decision in Milwaukee. If that sentence sounds familiar, it should: Cole had fashioned identical numbers (one run and three hits over seven innings) in defeating the Rockies six days earlier. Cole is the third major-league pitcher this season to win consecutive starts while finishing with identical totals of innings, hits allowed and runs allowed in each game; Seattle’s Ariel Miranda did it on May 25 and 30 (five innings, three hits, two runs), and Colorado’s Jeff Hoffman did it on May 22 and June 4, employing the same formula as Cole (seven innings, three hits, one run).

Hammel charging through June

Jason Hammel continued his recent run of fine pitching, holding the Red Sox to two runs over seven innings and taking a 4-2 decision in Kansas City. Hammel had a 1-6 won-lost record and a 6.18 ERA over his first 10 starts of the season, through the end of May. But in four starts this month, Hammel is 3-0 with a 2.30 ERA. That fits right in with his career profile: Hammel owns a 19-12 (.613) won-lost record and a 3.53 ERA in June, his lowest ERA in any month.

Reds end tailspin by beating Rays

The Reds snapped their nine-game losing streak by taking a trip to Florida and knocking off the Rays, 7-3. Cincinnati and Tampa Bay comprise one of those interleague pairings that leave some fans asking, “Huh?” But not Reds fans, who have delighted in the occasional Reds-Rays battles. Cincinnati is now 10-3 all-time against Tampa Bay, and the resulting .769 winning percentage is the highest for any National League team against any American League opponent in the 21-year history of interleague play (minimum: 10 meetings).

Dickey & Co. blank Giants

The Braves exploded for seven runs in the eighth inning, breaking open a tight game and blanking the Giants, 9-0, in the San Franciscans’ first visit to SunTrust Park. R. A. Dickey and two relievers combined for the shutout. It was the fifth time that the Giants have been shut out in their maiden visit to a particular venue; they also came up empty in their initial appearances at Citi Field in 2009, at old Colt Stadium in Houston in 1962, and in two nineteenth-century parks.