Elias Says: April 3, 2017

Bumgarner slugs his way into the record book

Madison Bumgarner went 2-for-2 with a pair of home runs and retired the first 16 batters he faced in the Giants’ 6–5 loss to the Diamondbacks on Sunday. Bumgarner was the first pitcher in major-league history to hit two home runs in his team’s first game of a season.

Over the past six seasons, the only players to homer on each of their first two at-bats of a season were Bryce Harper in 2013, George Kottaras in 2014, and Victor Martinez last season. The only other Giants players to do so since the team moved to San Francisco in 1957 were Matt Williams (1994) and Mark Lewis (1997).

Bumgarner has hit 13 home runs in his last 199 at-bats, dating back to June 2014—not an insignificant sample. His rate of one homer per 15.3 at-bats during that time is almost identical to the career rates of Jimmie Foxx (one per 15.2), Mike Schmidt (15.2), and Albert Pujols (15.5).

Let’s not forget about Bumgarner’s pitching. He was the first pitcher who was perfect through five innings in his team’s season opener since J.R. Richard did it in the Astros’ opening game of the 1980 season against the Dodgers. But for the sixth time in MadBum’s career, the Giants lost a game after staking him to a lead of three or more runs.

Cardinals open season with walkoff win over the champs

Randal Grichuk, who hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning, delivered a two-out, bases-loaded single in the ninth to give the Cardinals a 4–3 victory over the Cubs. St. Louis was the first team to open its season with a walkoff win over the defending World Series champion since 1981. The Reds defeated the Phillies, 3–2, in their season opener when Tug McGraw issued a game-ending bases-loaded walk to Dan Driessen.

Martinez stifles the Cubs

Carlos Martinez tossed a masterpiece, scattering six hits over seven-and-a-third innings and striking out 10 batters without allowing a run to the Cubs, but he was denied a victory when Chicago rallied for three runs to tie the score in the top of the ninth. Martinez was only the fourth pitcher since 1900 with at least 10 strikeouts and no walks while not allowing a run in his team’s season opener. The others were Bob Gibson of the Cardinals in 1967, Chris Short of the Phillies in 1968, and Jered Weaver of the Angels in 2012.

Molina and the Cardinals are staying together

Prior to Sunday’s game, the Cardinals signed Yadier Molina to a three-year, $60 million contract extension that runs through the 2020 season. That will give Molina the opportunity to set a major-league record for games as a catcher for one team. Gabby Hartnett holds that mark, having caught 1756 games for the Cubs. Molina’s appearance on Sunday night was his 1583rd as a catcher for St. Louis.

Rays tag Tanaka with historic loss

The Rays scored seven runs in the first three innings and held on for a 7–3 opening-day victory over Masahiro Tanaka and the Yankees. Tanaka’s 0.38 ERA during the 2017 preseason was the third lowest in the last 20 years by a pitcher who worked at least 20 innings in the spring. But he became the first pitcher in modern major-league history to allow at least two earned runs in each of the first three innings while starting his team’s first game of a season.

Yankees open season with a young lineup

The Yankees started four 24-year-olds on Sunday: Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Aaron Judge, and Ronald Torreyes. It was the first time that four players age 24 or younger started the Yankees’ season opener since 1932, when 23-year-old Lefty Gomez took the mound for Yankees, whose lineup also included Bill Dickey (24), Ben Chapman (23), and Frankie Crosetti (21).

Over the past two seasons (2015–16), the only team with as many as four opening-day starters who had not yet turned 25 years old was last season’s World Series champion, the Cubs. The players were Kris Bryant (24), Kyle Schwarber (23), Jorge Soler (24), and Addison Russell (22).

Celtics reach 50 wins again, tying NBA record

The Celtics improved to 50–27 with a 110–94 victory at Madison Square Garden. This is the 32nd season in which Boston has won at least 50 games, tying the Lakers’ NBA record. Boston won at least 50 games 27 times in a span of 34 seasons from 1958–59 through 1991–92, but only five times in 25 seasons since then.

Westbrook extends his TD streak to 6 games

Russell Westbrook earned his 40th triple-double of the season, scoring 40 points to go with 13 rebounds and 10 assists in the Thunder’s 113–101 loss to the Hornets. It was Westbrook’s sixth consecutive TD; he had a streak of seven straight earlier this season (Nov. 25–Dec. 9). He is the first player in NBA history with two streaks of six triple-doubles in the same season. Two players had two streaks of five TDs in one season: Oscar Robertson in 1961–62 and Wilt Chamberlain in 1967–68.

Warriors match MJ’s Bulls for NBA’s best run of three seasons

The Warriors defeated the Wizards, 139–115, for their 203rd victory since the start of the 2014–15 season. That ties the NBA record for wins by one team over a span of three seasons. The Bulls won 203 games from 1995–96 to 1997–98, Michael Jordan’s last three seasons with the team.

Incidentally, Sunday’s win over Washington was noteworthy even in the context of Golden State’s historic three-season run. It was only the second game during that time in which the W’s scored more than 30 points in all four quarters, having also done so in a 136–111 win over Portland last April.

Butler’s on a roll

Jimmy Butler scored 39 points in the Bulls’ 117–110 win at New Orleans. It was the fourth time in the past two weeks that Butler scored at least 33 points in a game. He also had four games of 33 or more points in a two-week span in November. The only other Bulls players to do that even once in their careers were Michael Jordan (dozens of times), Bob Love (three times), and Orlando Woolridge (once).

Despite George’s efforts, Cavs survive 2 OTs to down Pacers

Paul George outscored LeBron James, 43–41, including a 19–3 edge during two overtime periods. But the Cavaliers prevailed, 135–130, over the Pacers. George outscored his teammates, 19–0, during one stretch in OT. It was the second-longest streak this season of one player scoring all of his team’s points. Devin Booker scored 21 straight points for the Suns—no, not in his 70-point game at Boston on March 24, but at the end of a game against the Mavericks on January 12.

It was also the second-longest such streak of George’s NBA career. He scored the final 21 points for the Pacers in a victory over the Pistons on Jan. 2, 2016.

Barnes scores big against Bucks

Harrison Barnes regained his scoring touch, tossing in 31 points in the Mavericks’ 109–105 win over the Bucks. Barnes, who averaged only 13.6 points over his previous eight games, had scored at least 30 points seven times this season, tying the second-highest total by a player in his first season with Dallas. Jay Vincent had 15 games of 30-plus points for the Mavs in 1981–82 and Jamal Mashburn had seven in 1993–94. (Both were rookies.)

Barnes scored 13 straight Dallas points late in the fourth quarter on Sunday, matching the longest run by a Mavs player this season. Barnes himself set that mark eight days earlier.

Nets sweep back-to-backs, avoid an unwelcome distinction

Coming off Saturday’s 121–111 victory over Orlando, the Nets avoided an unwanted line in the NBA record book by defeating the Hawks, 91–82. Brooklyn had lost the last 22 games it had played without an off day, one short of the league record, set by the Warriors from 1984 to 1985.

With a win in the second game of its last pair of back-to-backs this season, Brooklyn avoided joining a short list of teams that went an entire season without a victory in such a game: the 1946–47 Toronto Huskies (0–14), 1947–48 Providence Steamrollers (0–10), 1984–85 Warriors (0–19), and 1990–91 Kings (0–17).

Gobert attains a milestone for Utah

Rudy Gobert blocked six shots in the Jazz’ 109–103 loss at San Antonio, boosting his league-leading total to 202 blocks this season. Gobert is the third player in franchise history to block 200 shots in one season. Mark Eaton did it nine times in a 10-season span starting as a rookie in 1982–83, and Andrei Kirilenko did it twice, most recently in 2005–06.

Another Sixers rookie steps up

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot had a season-high 23 points in the 76ers’ 113–105 loss at Toronto. Luwawu-Cabarrot is the third Sixers rookie to score at least 20 points in the game this season. Joel Embiid had 19 games of 20 or more points; Dario Saric has 14. Over the last four seasons, the only other team with three “20-point rookies” was Philadelphia two years ago, when Nerlens Noel, JaKarr Sampson, and K.J. McDaniels did it. None of those players remains with the Sixers.

Lakers pounds the boards against Grizzlies

The Lakers dominated the boards in their 108–103 victory over the Grizzlies, outrebounding Memphis, 51–33. It was the first game in either of the last two seasons in which three different Lakers players reached double-figures in rebounds: Larry Nance Jr. (14), Julius Randle (11), and Thomas Robinson (10 in 20 minutes off the bench).

Penguins rookie earns 30th win

Matt Murray became the first rookie goaltender to win 30 games in one season for the Penguins with his 3–2 victory against the Hurricanes. Murray is the first NHL goaltender to post 30 or more wins in one season as a rookie since Corey Crawford won 33 games for the Blackhawks in 2010–11. Four active goaltenders besides Murray and Crawford had 30-win seasons as an NHL rookie: Henrik Lundqvist (30) and Ryan Miller (30) in 2005–06, Steve Mason (33) in 2008–09, and Jimmy Howard (37) in 2009–10.

Holtby dominates the East

Braden Holtby got the Capitals two points closer to clinching the best record in the Eastern Conference with a 3–2 win over the Blue Jackets in Columbus. Holtby will be a key reason if Washington ends up with the top record in its conference. He has a 27–6–5 record in 40 intraconference games this season, including an 18–0–1 mark versus Eastern Conference foes since January 1, with three wins in three games against Columbus.

Zucc ranks among the best after a slow start

Mats Zuccarello assisted on three of the Rangers’ four goals in their win against the Flyers. Zuccarello was credited with only three assists in his first 14 games this season but he has assisted on 41 goals in the 65 games he has played since then. The only Eastern Conference players who have produced as many assists over that span (Nov. 12 to date) as Zuccarello are Nicklas Backstrom (53), Erik Karlsson (44), Victor Hedman (44), and Henrik Zetterberg (42).

Lee reaches a milestone for Isles

Anders Lee reached the 30-goal mark for the first time in his NHL career when he scored the first of his two goals in the Islanders’ 4–2 win at Buffalo. Lee, a St. Paul, Minnesota native, is only the fourth U.S.-born player to score 30 or more goals in one season for the Islanders. Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine did that six times (a six-season streak from 1985–86 through 1990–91), and Mark Parrish (2001–02) and Jason Blake (2006–07) each had one 30-goal season for the Isles.

Hertl’s early pair fuels Sharks’ win

Tomas Hertl gave the Sharks a 2–0 lead by scoring a pair of goals just under 2 minutes apart in the first period and San Jose went on to post a 3–1 win over the Canucks. It was the first time this season that a Sharks player scored two goals in the first 20 minutes of a game. Hertl produced one of the three multiple-goal first periods by a San Jose player last season (Feb. 22, 2016 at St. Louis). The others were by Joel Ward and Logan Couture.

Palat has been a key to Tampa Bay’s resurgence

Ondrej Palat scored the game-winning goal in addition to tallying two assists in the Lightning’s 6–3 victory over the Stars. The Lightning have won nine of their last 13 games and Palat has racked up a total of 15 points in those nine wins (4 goals, 11 assists), with at least one point in each of those victories. Palat has recorded 49 points in the 71 games he has played for Tampa Bay this season, and nearly 60 percent of his points (29 of 49) have come in his 13 multi-point games.

Allen’s remarkable turnaround continues

Jake Allen, who made 35 saves in the Blues’ 4–1 win over the Predators, has a 14–6–2 record in the 22 starts he has made since February 1, allowing three or fewer goals in each game. Allen was 17–13–3 in the 35 starts he made this season through the end of January and he gave up four goals or more 10 times in those 35 games.

Khudobin providing strong relief for Rask

Anton Khudobin earned his sixth win in six starts since he was recalled from the minors in early February by making 41 saves in the Bruins’ 3–2 victory at Chicago. Khudobin, who has posted a 1.84 goal-against average over his last six starts, had a 1–5–1 record and 3.15 GAA in the seven starts he made for Boston earlier this season. The Bruins’ regular netminder, Tuukka Rask, began this season by winning his first six starts. Boston is the fourth NHL team to have two different goaltenders win six or more consecutive starts this season. The other teams are the Capitals (Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer 6), Blackhawks (Corey Crawford and Scott Darling), and Flames (Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson).