“Keuchlander” is a buzzsaw
The afternoon after Dallas Keuchel defeated the Yankees, striking out 10 in seven shutout innings, Justin Verlander took the hill in a postseason performance for the ages. Verlander allowed one run on five hits and a walk in a complete game, striking out 13 batters. Keuchel and Verlander are the first pair of teammates in MLB history to win and strike out at least 10 batters apiece in Game One and Game Two of a postseason series. In fact, the only other duo to win and strike out 10-or-more batters in two straight games in the same postseason series was Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax, in Games Four and Five of the 1965 World Series against the Twins. Now, let’s widen the net: Has any other duo, other than Drysdale/Koufax and Keuchel/Verlander won back-to-back games, striking out 10 or more, in the same postseason? It happened one other time, and Verlander had his fingerprints all over it. The tall ace, then pitching for the Tigers, defeated the A’s in Game Five of the 2013 ALDS, striking out 10 in eight shutout innings, and teammate Anibal Sanchez defeated Boston in Game One of the ALCS, allowing no hits and striking out 12 in six innings.
Another big walkoff for Astros
Jose Altuve, who went 2-for-4, singled with one out in the final inning, and scored on a Carlos Correa double to right-center to provide Houston with a 2-1 win. It was the Astros’ seventh postseason walkoff win, in 33 postseason home games. That is a walkoff percentage of 21 percent, by far the highest among teams with at least 20 postseason home games. The last two Houston walkoffs before tonight: Chris Burke’s 18th inning walkoff homer in the fourth and final game of the 2005 NLDS against the Braves, and Jeff Kent’s walkoff 3-run homer against the Cardinals in Game Five of the 2004 NLCS.
It’s official: Altuve is the man
The aforementioned Altuve is now 13-for-23 this postseason, with multiple-hit games in five of the six contests in which he has appeared. Altuve’s .565 batting average is the third-highest through six games in a single postseason among players with at least 20 at-bats, trailing only the Giants’ Will Clark in 1989 (.625, 15-for-24) and the Cardinals’ Pepper Martin in 1931 (.571, 12-for-21).
Outfield defense plays big role in tight game
The Yankees failed to throw out Jose Altuve at home in the ninth on a play which a clean relay clearly would have rendered the Astros’ star out at home, but let’s highlight Houston’s outfield defense their last three games. In the final game of the ALDS, Marwin Gonzalez threw out Mitch Moreland at home in the Astros 5-4 win. At the time the throw preserved a 2-1 lead. In the first game of the ALCS on Friday, Gonzalez again threw Greg Bird out at the plate, preserving a 2-0 lead; the throw would prove crucial as Bird blasted a solo homer in vain in the top of the ninth in that 2-1 game. On Saturday, in Game Two, the Astros nabbed Brett Gardner trying to stretch a double into a triple on a relay from Reddick to Carlos Correa to Alex Bregman. It is the first time in the last 14 postseasons that a team has had outfield assists in each of three straight games. The last team to do it was the 2003 Red Sox, who defeated the A’s, three games to two, in the ALDS by taking the final three games, in which outfield assists were provided by Manny Ramirez from left field, Johnny Damon from center, and Trot Nixon from right.
Astros win twice despite scoring only twice in each game
The two 2-1 Astros’ wins in Games one and Two marked the third time in postseason history that a team won the first two games of a series, scoring two-or-fewer runs in each. The Yankees did it in the 1950 World Series in Philadelphia, 1-0 and 2-1, en route to a four-game sweep, and the Indians did it in Games One and Two of the 2016 ALCS, 2-0 and 2-1, against the Blue Jays. Cleveland won that series, four games to one.
Puig, your RBI man
Yasiel Puig went 2-for-4 with 2 RBIs—one on a double and one on a homer—in the Dodgers’ 5-2 win in Game One of the NLCS. Puig drove in two runs apiece in each of the first two games of the NLDS, at home against Arizona. (He was held without an RBI in the third and final game of that series in Arizona.) Puig is the fifth player with multi-RBI games in each of his first three home games of a postseason. Ruben Sierra did it in Texas in 1992, John Valentin in Boston in 1999, Jim Thome in Cleveland in 1999, and Reggie Sanders in St. Louis in 2005.
One other Dodgers player had multi-RBI games in three of his first four games in a single postseason: Dusty Baker in 1977, who had multi-RBI games in Games Two, Three, and Four of the NLCS against Philadelphia, all Dodgers’ wins.
Dodgers retire last 18 Cubs’ batters
After Clayton Kershaw allowed a 2-run homer to Albert Almora, Jr. in the fourth inning, he retired the next six batters in order in the fourth and fifth innings. The Dodgers bullpen picked up where he left off and retired the next 12 Cubs batters to end the game: one by Tony Cingrani, three by Kenta Maeda, two by Brandon Morrow, two by Tony Watson, and four by Kenley Jansen. The 18 consecutive batters retired was the second-longest streak in Dodgers postseason history. The longest streak was 19 batters, also at the end of a game, which capped an 11-inning 6-5 win at the old Yankee Stadium in Game Five of the 1952 World Series. Instead of six Dodgers pitchers, however, that was all the handiwork of one: Carl Erskine, who earned an 11-inning victory in that game. (The Yankees would win that series in seven.)
Good omen for L.A.
Here’s a good omen for Dodgers fans. The Dodgers have either won or lost each of their last 16 postseason series, consistent with the Game One result: When they have won the opener, they went on to win the series; when they have lost the opener, they went on to lose the series. No other team in major-league history has seen the result of its postseason series mirror the result of Game One over that many consecutive series. The last time that the Dodgers played a postseason series in which the result of the series did not reflect the Game One result was in the 1988 N.L. Championship Series, when the Dodgers dropped the opener to the Mets but bounced back to take the series in seven games.
Butcher a rookie sensation
Rookie defenseman Will Butcher assisted on two goals for the Devils in their 3–2 win over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Butcher, who made his NHL debut in New Jersey’s opener this season, has racked up eight assists in his five games with the Devils. That’s the most assists any defenseman who debuted in the “modern era” recorded in his first five NHL games. (The previous high was seven by Ryan Whitney in November 2005.) In fact, only two forwards who debuted since 1943–44 tallied at least eight assists in their first five NHL games: Sergei Makarov (10 in October 1989) and Brett Callighen (eight in October 1979). Yes, Butcher has more assists in his first five NHL games than Wayne Gretkzy got in his first five games (seven)!
Saad makes Blackhawks happy
The Blackhawks edged the Predators, 2–1, in Chicago on Brandon Saad’s overtime goal. Saad, who was reacquired by the Blackhawks in a trade with the Blue Jackets during the offseason, leads the Hawks with six goals in six games this season. That’s at least twice as many goals as Saad scored through his first six games in any of his previous seasons in the NHL (old high: three in 2015–16 with Columbus). The fewest games Saad needed to reach six goals in any previous season was 16 (also in 2015–16).
40 is just a number for Chara
Zdeno Chara tied his regular-season career high for points in one game when he scored one goal and assisted on two in the Bruins’ 6–2 win at Arizona. It’s the 14th time that Chara produced three points in a regular-season game and the first time since he turned 40 years old on March 18. (Chara has one four-point game in the Stanley Cup playoffs, against Toronto in 2013.) Chara is the fifth 40-something defensemen in NHL history to tally at least three points in a regular-season game, joining Tim Horton (twice), Carl Brewer, Rob Blake and Nicklas Lidstrom (five times, last at age 41 on Nov. 5, 2011 against Anaheim). Chara is the fourth player in Bruins history to score at least three points in a game at age 40 or older, after Johnny Bucyk (10 times), Jean Ratelle (three) and Mark Recchi (six).
Blue Jackets’ comeback stuns Wild
Alexander Wennberg scored the first overtime goal of his NHL career to earn the Blue Jackets a 5–4 win over the Wild in St. Paul. Columbus trailed, 4–2, early in the third period but the Blue Jackets forced the game into overtime on goals by Cam Atkinson and Josh Anderson. Excluding games decided by a shootout, this was only the third time in the last nine seasons that the Blue Jackets won a game in which they trailed by two goals in the third period. Their other wins of that kind since 2009–10 were also overtime victories: versus the Flyers in 2015 (Feb. 13) and at Ottawa in 2017 (Jan. 22).
Avalanche no match for Seguin
Tyler Seguin tallied a goal and an assist while racking up a game-high seven shots on goal to help lead the Stars to a 3–1 win over the Avalanche. Seguin has been extremely productive versus the Avs during his five seasons with Dallas, with totals of 11 goals, 13 assists and 24 points in 17 games. Seguin is tied with Zach Parise for the most goals by a player versus Colorado since 2013–14, and he’s tied with Blake Wheeler for the most points against the Avalanche over the same span
Law firm of Laughton, Couturier, and Giroux help Flyers defeat Capitals
Scott Laughton, Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux each scored a pair of goals for the Flyers in their home opener, an 8–2 rout of the Capitals on Saturday night. This was the first time that the Flyers had three multiple-goal scorers in one game since Dec. 8, 2009, when Giroux, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards each tallied twice in a 6–2 home-ice win against the Flyers. It was the first time a team had three multi-goal scorers in a game against Washington since Oct. 29, 2011, when the Canucks’ Alexander Edler, Chris Higgins and Maxim Lapierre each potted two goals in a 7–4 win over the Capitals in Vancouver.
Matthews is Toronto’s overtime hero again
Auston Matthews’ second goal of the game earned the Maple Leafs a 4–3 overtime victory against the Canadiens in Montreal. Matthews also scored the winning goal in the Leafs’ other overtime victory this season (versus Chicago on Monday). He’s the first player in Toronto franchise history to score two game-winning goals in overtime in the team’s first five games of a season. Matthews is the first player on any NHL team with two OT winners in his club’s first five games of a season since the Canucks’ Mike Santorelli in October 2013.
Another multi-goal game for Crosby
Sidney Crosby scored two goals, including the game-winner, in the Penguins’ 4–3 victory against the Panthers. It was Crosby’s first multiple-goal game this season and the 78th multi-goal game of his NHL career. Crosby ranks second in multiple-goal games since he entered the league in October 2005, behind Alex Ovechkin (114). Crosby’s last multi-goal game in regular-season play came in his last game against Florida, a three-goal hat trick on March 19. He has more multiple-goal games in his last two games versus the Panthers than in his previous 34 career games against them (one: two goals on Oct. 23, 2009).
Kucherov’s streak continues
Nikita Kucherov extended his season-opening goal-scoring streak to five games when he tallied what proved to be the winning goal in the Lightning’s 2–1 win over the Blues. Kucherov is the first player in Tampa Bay’s 25-year NHL history to score at least one goal in each of the team’s first five games of a season, and he’s the first player on any NHL team to do so since Patrick Marleau scored in each of San Jose’s first five games in 2012–13. The only active NHL players besides Kucherov and Marleau to begin a season with a five-game goal streak are Jaromir Jagr for the Penguins in 1994–95, and Thomas Vanek, who did that for the Sabres in 2008–09.
Five goals in three games for Ehlers
Nikolaj Ehlers assisted on the first goal and then scored the game-winning goal in the Jets’ 2–1 victory over the Hurricanes. He did not score a goal when Winnipeg lost its first two games this season but the Jets have won three consecutive games since then with Ehlers tallying five times in those three games, including a hat trick in Edmonton on Monday. This is the first time that Ehlers has scored as many as five goals over a three-game span in his three seasons in the NHL.