Elias Says: March 30, 2018

Springing into action

George Springer, last seen receiving the World Series MVP Award, led off the first inning for Houston with a home run on Thursday, just as he started last season. Springer is the first player in major-league history to hit a leadoff home run on Opening Day in consecutive seasons. The only other player with two such blasts in his career was Terry Puhl, for the Astros in 1978 and 1980.

Also of note, Springer became the first player to hit a home run leading off the first inning of the season opener of a defending World Series champion.

The 2017 Astros were the second team in major-league history to begin a season with a first-inning leadoff home run and then go on to win the World Series that same year. The first was the 1988 Dodgers; Steve Sax homered to start the first inning in their first game that season.

Happ kicks off the season with a bang

Ian Happ hit a home run on Jose Urena’s first pitch in Miami on Thursday, in MLB’s earliest-starting game on Opening Day. Happ became the second player to homer on the first pitch of a major-league season. The first was Dwight Evans, who smacked Jack Morris’s first offering of the 1986 season for a home run at Tiger Stadium.

Bombs away for newest Bomber

Giancarlo Stanton blasted two home runs in his Yankees debut, in Toronto on Thursday. The only other player in team history who hit two home runs in his first game for the Yankees was none other than Roger Maris, at Fenway Park in the Yankees first game in 1960. Maris went on to win the first of his back-to-back American League MVP Awards that season.

Between Maris and Stanton, the only other Yankees player to homer twice in a season opener was Joe Pepitone at Municipal Stadium in Kansas City in 1963.

Déjà vu all over again in Baltimore

Adam Jones hit a walkoff home run in the 11th inning off Fernando Rodney on Thursday, a year after his teammate Mark Trumbo hit an 11th-inning walkoff homer in the Orioles season opener. The Orioles are the first team in major-league history to hit a first-game walkoff home run in consecutive seasons, let alone one in extra innings.

Giants beat Kershaw with one swing

The Giants defeated the Dodgers on Thursday, 1–0, with the only run coming on Joe Panik’s home run off Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw has gotten a loss in a game in which he allowed only one run only two other times in the regular season (once in 2010, the other in 2012) as well as in Game 2 of the 2013 NLCS against the Cardinals.

It was the second time that the Giants started a season with a shutout of the Dodgers. The first one came 60 years ago, in MLB’s first-ever game played in California, when the Giants’ Ruben Gomez tossed a six-hitter to beat Don Drysdale, 8–0, at San Francisco’s Seals Stadium. Gomez was supported by homers by Daryl Spencer and Orlando Cepeda, who was playing in his first big-league game, and went on to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award.

It’s only the second time in their 136-year history that the Giants have won a 1–0 game on a home run by a second baseman. Fifty years ago, on Sept. 17, 1968, Ron Hunt connected off Bob Gibson of St. Louis in the first inning for the game’s only run—as Gaylord Perry went on to toss a no-hitter! Less than 24 hours later, the Cardinals turned the tables, as their Ray Washburn threw a no-hitter against the Giants.

Molina’s milestones

Yadier Molina slugged a two-run home run in the top of the second inning, his fourth longball in an Opening Day game, in the Cardinals loss to the Mets on Thursday. With that blast, Molina tied Albert Pujols for the most Opening Day home runs in Cardinals history.

That was after Molina started behind the plate in the bottom of the first inning, extending his streak of Opening Day starts at catcher to 14 in a row. He’s the third player in major league history to start 14 consecutive season openers for one team at catcher, joining Hall of Famers Ray Schalk (White Sox, 15 years, 1913 to 1927) and Bill Dickey (Yankees, 14 years, 1930 to 1943).

Rays big comeback is a reminder of a wild night

The Rays defeated the Red Sox on Thursday, 6–4, with all six runs coming in the bottom of the eighth inning, to erase a 4–0 Boston lead. It was the Rays’ first win after trailing by four or more runs in the eighth inning or later since the final day of the 2011 season, when Tampa Bay overcame a 7–0 deficit to defeat the Yankees. That win allowed the Rays to get into the playoffs, after the Orioles had defeated the Red Sox moments earlier.

Denard Span had the big hit for the Rays in the eighth inning, a three-run triple. It was Span’s fifth bases-loaded triple in the major leagues, tying Jose Reyes for the highest total among active players.

Braves biggest opening-game comeback capped by Markakis

The Braves overcame a 5–0 deficit to defeat the Phillies on Thursday, 8–5, on Nick Markakis’s 166th home run, but his first walkoff homer in the major leagues. It was the largest first-game deficit overcome to win in Braves team history, dating back to 1876, the first year of the National League.

Markakis entered the day with the second-most home runs among active players who had never hit a walkoff homer. Troy Tulowitzki is atop that list with 224 lifetime homers but no game-enders.

Davidson lives up to designated hitter role

The White Sox slugged six home runs, tying a major-league record for a team’s first game of a season, set by the Mets in Montreal in 1988. Three of those homers were by designated hitter Matt Davidson, who tied a major-league record for most homers by a player in his team’s first game of a season, done three other times.

No other White Sox DH has had a three-homer game and before Thursday, they had been the only American League team in existence for the entirety of the usage of the designated hitter that had not had a three-home game from a DH.

King Felix is an Opening Day fixture

Felix Hernandez struck out four Indians batters on Thursday, giving him 78 strikeouts in Opening Day starts, and moving him past Jack Morris into the fourth-highest total all-time. The only pitchers with more strikeouts than Hernandez in their team’s first game of a season were Randy Johnson (107), Tom Seaver (81) and Walter Johnson (79).

Oakland wins opener after trailing by four runs

The Athletics defeated the Angels on Thursday, 6–5, after spotting their southern rivals a four-run lead. The only other season that the A’s started by winning their first game after trailing by four or more runs was 1925, when the team, then based in Philadelphia, defeated the Red Sox after trailing by six runs.

Drummond has 20/20 vision

Andre Drummond scored 24 points and grabbed 23 rebounds in the Pistons’ win over the Wizards. It was the 20th 20/20 game of Drummond’s career; second most among active players, behind Dwight Howard (51). It was his seventh 20/20 game this season the most in one season for any NBA player since Howard had nine in 2011–12. The last Pistons player to have seven games with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in one season was Bob Lanier, who had 17 in 1972–73.

Aldridge and the Admiral

LaMarcus Aldridge scored 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the Spurs' win over the Thunder. Aldridge has scored 218 points and secured 65 rebounds over his last seven home games. The last Spurs player to score that many points and grab that many rebounds over a span of seven home games was David Robinson, who did it late in the 1993–94 season (227 points, 77 rebounds).

Two dreams come true

Goaltender Collin Delia made his NHL debut on Thursday and recorded a 6–2 win for the Blackhawks against the Jets. Dellia got the start for Chicago in Thursday’s game after scheduled starter Anton Forsberg was injured during the pre-game warmup. But Dellia suffered an injury in the third period and had to leave the game, with another NHL debutant taking his place: Scott Foster, a 36-year-old Chicago-area accountant and amateur goaltender who was signed to a one-day contract right before the game to serve as a backup for Dellia. Foster’s dream-come-true had a happy ending, as he was named the game’s first star for stopping all seven shots he faced in the the 14 minutes he played.

This was the first time that a team had two goaltenders make their NHL debut in the same game since Oct. 18, 1986, when Karl Friesen and Chris Terreri did that for the Devils at Pittsburgh. Friesen started and allowed all of the Penguins’ goals in an 8–4 New Jersey loss, with Terreri replacing him in the middle of the third period and stopping all six shots he faced.

The best defense is a good offense

Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson reached the 50-assist mark for the third consecutive season and fifth season overall in his NHL career when he assisted on Magnus Paajarvi’s third-period goal for the Senators in their game against the Panthers. The only other current NHL defenseman with more than one 50-assist season in his career is the Blackhawks’ Duncan Keith with two. Karlsson is the first NHL defenseman with a streak of at least three straight 50-assist seasons since Nicklas Lidstrom had a three-year streak for the Red Wings from 1999–2000 through 2001–02.

Crosby ends OT quickly

Sidney Crosby extended his goal streak to five games when he scored 19 seconds into overtime to earn the Penguins a 4–3 win against the Devils. It was Crosby’s third OT goal this season and the 13th regular-season overtime goal of his NHL career, tying Jeff Carter for third most among active players, behind Alex Ovechkin (22) and Daniel Sedin (15).

Crosby’s goal in Thursday’s game at New Jersey was the quickest overtime goal of his career. The only other time he scored in the first minute of a regular-season overtime period was at the 43-second mark at Buffalo on Dec. 22, 2008.

Rask not struck by Lightning

Tuuka Rask made 26 saves for the Bruins in their 4–2 win over the Lightning, a victory which moved Boston past Tampa Bay and into first place in the Atlantic Division standings. (The Lightning had led the division every day since mid-October.) Rask has won all three games he’s played versus Tampa Bay this season, holding the Lightning to a total of four goals. Rask is the league leader in wins against Tampa Bay this season, and his 16–6–1 career record versus the Lightning makes him the leader in wins against the Bolts since 2009–10 (the first season in which Rask played against Tampa Bay).

Dubois gets first hat trick

Rookie Pierre-Luc Dubois notched his first NHL hat trick by scoring three goals in the Blue Jackets’ 5–1 win at Calgary. The 19-year-old Dubois is the second teenager ever to record a hat trick for Columbus. The first was Nikita Filatov, who was 18 years old when he scored three goals in a 4–2 Blue Jackets win against Minnesota on Jan. 10, 2009. Two players besides Dubois have produced a hat trick as a teenager in an NHL game this season: Chicago’s Alex DeBrincat (Nov. 27 vs. Anaheim, age 19) and Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine (March 6, 2018 at N.Y. Rangers, age 19).

Dumba has a hand in four goals

Matt Dumba became the first defenseman in Wild franchise history to register four points in one game, regular-season or playoffs, when he tallied one goal and three assists in Minnesota’s 5–2 win against the Stars. Before Dumba, the last defenseman on an NHL team from Minnesota to record four or more points in one game was Larry Murphy with one goal and three assists for the North Stars in an 8–6 loss at Detroit on Oct. 26, 1990.

A comeback win for Detroit

Six different players scored a goal for the Red Wings as they overcame an early 2–0 deficit and beat the Sabres, 6–3, in Buffalo. Entering play on Thursday, Detroit was the only NHL team that had not won a game this season in which it trailed by two goals or more. The Red Wings’ two most recent comeback victories from a multiple-goal deficit came five days apart last season (Jan. 14, 2017 vs. Pittsburgh and Jan. 18, 2017 vs. Boston).

Predators finally overcome Sharks

Ryan Ellis’s tiebreaking goal in the middle of the third period was the game-winning goal for the Predators in their 5–3 victory over the Sharks. Nashville had taken a lead three times before, on goals by Kyle Turris (1–0), Viktor Arvidsson (2–1) and Craig Smith (3–2), only to have San Jose tie the score each time. This was only the third time in the last eight seasons that the Predators scored four tiebreaking goals goals in one game. Their others games since 2010–11 with four go-ahead goals were both wins against Colorado (Nov. 6, 2013 and Dec. 6, 2016).