Elias Says: July 3, 2017

Betts produces from the top spot in the order

Mookie Betts homered twice and drove in eight runs as the Red Sox routed the Blue Jays, 15–1. Betts tied the major-league record for RBIs by a player hitting in the leadoff spot. That mark was set by Augie Bergamo of the Cardinals in 1945; Betts was the fourth player to match Bergamo’s mark. The others were Bill Glynn of the Indians (1954), Jim Northrup of the Tigers (1973), and Ronnie Belliard of the Rockies (2003).

Betts has driven in 189 runs in 301 starts in the leadoff spot, equivalent to 101.7 RBIs per 162 games. That is the highest such average during the 98 seasons that RBIs have been officially compiled (minimum: 200 starts as a leadoff hitter). Among retired players, the highest mark belongs to Alfonso Soriano (96.3 RBIs per 162 games).

Nolan, Randy, and Max

Max Scherzer improved his record to 10–5 in the Nationals’ 7-2 victory at St. Louis, making this the third consecutive season in which he has at least 10 victories and 150 strikeouts before the All-Star break. Scherzer leads the National League with 163 strikeouts this season. Only two other pitchers had streaks of three seasons reaching those milestones by the break: Nolan Ryan for the Angels (1972–74) and Randy Johnson for the Diamondbacks (2000–02).

Happ is making up for a late start

Ian Happ hit a pair of home runs in the Cubs’ 6–2 win at Cincinnati. Happ, who made his major-league debut on May 13, now has 12 homers this season. Only four other rookies hit as many as 12 home runs by the All-Star break after not playing in the majors during April: Walt Dropo in 1950 (19 HR at the break), Frank Howard in 1960 (13), Dave Hostetler in 1982 (12), and Jason Bay in 2004 (12).

Phillies rookie stymies the Mets

Nick Pivetta shut down the Mets on Sunday, allowing one hit over seven innings in the Phillies’ 7–1 win at Citi Field. Pivetta was the first Phillies rookie in two decades to earn a victory by pitching at least seven innings and allowing no more than one hit. The last to do so was Darrin Winston against the Mets in 1997. It was the first and only start of Winston’s major-league career, which spanned 34 appearances over two seasons (1997–98).

Tribe rocks Verlander again and again

The Indians knocked out Justin Verlander in the fourth inning, scoring seven runs off the Tigers starter, and held on for an 11–8 victory at Detroit. It was the fourth time in Verlander’s last seven starts against Cleveland that he was charged with at least seven runs. No other team has scored seven runs in a game off Verlander even once during that time, dating back to May 2016.

Verlander has won only two of his last 15 starts against the Indians, and his total of 23 losses versus Cleveland is the highest by any pitcher during the expansion era that began in 1961.

The two Escobars

Alcides Escobar went 2-for-4 and drove in two runs in the Royals’ 6–2 win over the Twins. Escobar has turned his season around over the last three weeks, batting .392 since June 13 to rank fourth in the American League during that time. Through games of June 12, Escobar had the lowest batting average among the league’s 88 qualifiers (.180).

Bellinger hits the skids

Cody Bellinger went 1-for-5 with two strikeouts in the Dodgers’ 5–3 loss at San Diego, capping a week to forget. Bellinger has only three hits with nine strikeouts in his last 23 at-bats, and he has now gone 27 ABs since his last home run (the longest homerless streak of his 10-week major-league career).

A game-winner for the new kid

Ketel Marte delivered a game-ending single in Arizona’s 4–3 win over Colorado on Sunday. It was the fifth game and ninth at-bat with the Diamondbacks for Marte, who joined the team on Monday after Nick Ahmed suffered a fracture in his right hand. Marte is only the second player in D-backs history to produce a walkoff RBI within his first 10 ABs with the team. Dante Powell hit a game-ending double against the Dodgers in 1999 on his fourth at-bat with Arizona.

Cano makes his homers count

Robinson Cano hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning that extended Seattle’s lead over the Angels to 5–1. The Mariners needed that insurance when the Angels rallied in the bottom of the inning, and Seattle held on for a 5–3 victory. Cano ranks 25th in the majors with 17 home runs this season. But his total of 12 homers with runners on base is tied with Cody Bellinger and Miguel Sano for second, behind only Aaron Judge (14).

Fiers struggles but throws four scoreless innings

The Astros defeated the Yankees, 8–1, on Sunday, after the Yankees were unable to capitalize in the early innings against Houston starter Mike Fiers. Fiers was relieved after throwing 105 pitches over four scoreless innings. He was the first pitcher to throw at least 100 pitches through four innings but hold his opponent scoreless through the fourth since 2003, when Al Leiter did it in a victory over the Phillies. Leiter threw 102 pitches in the first four innings.

Realmuto returns to leadoff spot and he delivers

J.T. Realmuto went 3-for-6 from the leadoff slot, scoring twice and driving in two runs in the Marlins’ 10–3 win at Milwaukee. Realmuto batted .330 in 23 starts as Miami’s leadoff hitter last season. No catcher had started that many games batting leadoff since John Jaso with Tampa Bay in 2010 (39). But Sunday’s game was only the fifth from the top spot for Realmuto this season, and his first since May 9.

White Sox overcome Quintana’s shaky start

Jose Quintana retired only 13 batters, but the White Sox rallied for two runs in the eighth inning for a 6–5 win over the Rangers. It was the White Sox’ eighth victory this season in which their starting pitcher failed to complete five innings. That’s already their most such wins in any season since 2002 (10).

Ex-A’s catcher secures Braves sweep at Oakland

Kurt Suzuki’s 12th-inning home run, his second homer of the game, gave the Braves a 4–3 win at Oakland, completing a three-game sweep of the A’s. It was only the second time in the last 15 seasons that Atlanta swept an interleague series of three or more games on the road. The Braves’ last such sweep was over the Mariners at Safeco Field in 2011.

Giants, scoreless through 6, rally for win

The Giants rallied for three runs in the seventh inning and two in the eighth for a 5–3 victory at Pittsburgh. That victory, which extended San Francisco’s winning streak to six games, was its sixth this season after failing to score in the first six innings of a game. That is the highest such total in the majors, and it is already the Giants’ highest total in any season since 2010.