Elias Says: April 11, 2017

Cubs extend streak of home-opener wins as defending World Series champs

It was rainy, it was cold, it took a long time. Some might say 108 years. But Anthony Rizzo’s two-out, off-field single against Kenley Jansen in the bottom of the ninth sent Jon Jay home with the game-winning run as the Cubs, in their first-ever Wrigley Field season-opener as defending champions, nipped the Dodgers, 3-2. It was Rizzo’s first RBI of the season. The Cubs have never lost a home opener as the defending World Series champions; they won their first home game as the defending champion in both 1908 (7-3 over the Reds) and 1909 (3-1 against the Cardinals), at their pre-Wrigley home, West Side Park.

Pineda dazzles in Bronx opener

Michael Pineda was the star of the Yankees’ home opener, retiring all 20 Rays batters he faced before Evan Longoria’s first-pitch double with two outs in the seventh inning. Pineda allowed a run and two hits over seven and two-thirds innings, striking out 11 in New York’s 8-1 victory.

Pineda became the first major-league pitcher to take a perfect game into the seventh inning in his team’s home opener since J. R. Richard did that against the Dodgers in 1980. And prior to Richard, no big-leaguer had done it since Juan Marichal against the Cubs in 1966. (Marichal and Richard, like Pineda, allowed hits in the seventh inning of those games.) Pineda also became the first Yankees pitcher to throw six perfect innings to start the team’s home opener (Ron Guidry owned the best previous performance of that type, allowing the first Brewers baserunner with one out in the sixth inning.) Pineda joined Bob Turley as the only Yankees pitchers to toss six hitless innings from the outset of the season opener. (Turley did it in 1959; Pete Runnels had Boston’s first hit with none out in the seventh.) And Pineda became the first Yankees pitcher to produce a double-digit strikeout total and no walks in a home opener.

Myers hits for the cycle… Guess where?

Wil Myers completed hitting for the cycle with an eighth-inning triple to lead the Padres to a 5-3 road triumph over the Rockies. Coors Field is known for a lot of things—run-scoring, home-run hitting, humidors, high ERAs. But if it’s cycles that turn you on, grab a plane ticket for Denver. Since Coors Field opened in 1995, there have been 15 cycles produced there, more than twice as many as have been achieved at the venue with the next-highest total since 1995. There have been seven at what is now called Globe Life Park in Arlington, home of the Rangers.

Myers became the second Padres player to hit for a cycle, joining Matt Kemp, who produced the Padres’ initial cycle two years ago.

Harper: 6 times up, 6 times on base

Bryce Harper went 4-for-4 with a pair of walks as the Nationals broke open a close game with a seven-run eighth and completed a 14-6 victory over the Cardinals. It was just last year that Harper famously reached base in all seven plate appearances in a 13-inning game at Wrigley Field, on six walks and one time being hit by a pitch. He’s the first major-leaguer to have such a game—reaching base safely via hit, walk or HBP on each of at least six plate appearances—in each of two consecutive seasons since Larry Walker in 2003 and 2004. (Barry Bonds and Raul Ibanez each had two such games in the same season, both doing it in 2004.)

Castellanos loves this situation

Nicholas Castellanos smacked an eighth-inning RBI single off Chris Sale to snap a 1-1 tie and drive in what proved to be the game-winning run in the Tigers’ 2-1 victory over the Red Sox. Castellanos delivered his hit with two on and two out in the eighth inning, and coming through with multiple runners on base has become one of his trademarks. Castellanos has batted .330 in those situations in his major-league career; that’s the sixth-highest batting average in those spots (minimum: 200 such at-bats) since Castellanos made his big-league debut on Sept. 1, 2013.

Sale took a tough loss, while Tigers starter Justin Verlander, who had no decision, allowed just one unearned run over seven innings. It was the fifth time that Verlander and Sale had matched up as opposing starters, and the Tigers have won all five of those games. Verlander, by the way, is 10-3 with a 1.91 ERA over his last 20 starts, since last July. The 1.91 ERA is his lowest ERA over any 20-start span since 2011 (1.81), Verlander’s Cy Young Award-winning season.

Davis leaves his mark at a favorite venue

Khris Davis belted a two-run homer in the fourth inning, his fourth home run this season, to provide all of the scoring in the Athletics’ victory in Kansas City. Davis, who hit a pair of round-trippers in his team’s season opener, has homered in the opening game of each of Oakland’s three series this year. Only two other players in franchise history homered in the first games of each of the Athletics’ first three series of a season—Tony Armas in 1981 and Bob Johnson with Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics in 1937.

Davis has played five games at Kauffman Stadium in his big-league career, but he has packed a lot into them: three home runs and 10 RBIs, including at least one RBI in each game. Davis and Fred Lynn are the only players in the history of Kauffman Stadium to generate at least one RBI, with a total of at least three homers, over their first five games there. Lynn produced Davis-like totals of three homers and 10 RBIs in his first five games at what was then called Royals Stadium, in 1975.

As Bruce finishes, so he starts

Jay Bruce slammed a pair of home runs, including a two-run, tie-breaking blast that lifted the Mets to a 4-3 victory in Philadelphia. Bruce, who finished strongly for the Mets last season, hitting four home runs over his last eight games of the season, has started just as strongly this season, with four home runs in seven games played. Only one other player in Mets history hit at least four home runs over his last eight games in one season, and then hit at least four homers in his first eight games the next season. That was the player who has hit more home runs than anyone else in Mets history, Darryl Strawberry, who did that in 1986 and 1987.

Déjà vu: Paxton throws blanks at Astros

James Paxton tossed seven scoreless innings as the Mariners blanked the Astros, 6-0, on the heels of throwing six scoreless innings in his season debut in Houston five days earlier. The only other Mariners’ pitcher who produced scoreless outings in his first two starts of a season was Felix Hernandez in 2007. No major-league pitcher has delivered scoreless outings against the same opponent in his first two starts of a season since Oakland’s Brett Anderson did it against the Mariners in 2010.

Reds relievers are rocking

Three Reds relievers pitched no-hit, no-run ball over seven innings of work as Cincinnati won in Pittsburgh, 7-1. Michael Lorenzen (three innings), Cody Reed (three innings) and Wandy Peralta (one inning) were the bullpen heroes, marking the first game in modern (since 1900) history in which Reds relievers have pitched hitless ball over as many as seven innings pitched.

Last year, the ERA for Reds relievers (5.09) was the second-highest in the major leagues, with only the Rockies (5.13) owning a higher average. This season, the Reds’ bullpen owns a 1.53 ERA, lowest in the National League, and a .134 opponents’ batting average, lowest in the majors.

Moore goes eight innings, again, and Giants beat D-backs

Matt Moore allowed one run and three hits over eight innings to earn credit for the Giants’ 4-1 victory over the visiting Diamondbacks. Moore became only the second major-league pitcher this season to pitch eight innings in a game won by his team; Clayton Richard pitched the first eight innings of the Padres’ 4-0 shutout win over the Dodgers on April 4. You may recall that in Game Four of last year’s playoff series against the Cubs, Moore was removed with a 5-2 lead after pitching eight innings of two-hit ball against the Cubs, but the Giants bullpen allowed four runs in the ninth and the Cubs earned a series-clinching victory. And Moore had also thrown eight innings in his final regular-season start of last season.

Key win for Heat; Cavs drop 2nd OT game in 2 days

The Heat overcame an 11-point, fourth-quarter Cleveland lead to push the game into overtime, and Tyler Johnson (eight points) and Larry Whiteside (six points) led them during the extra session of a 124-121 win that kept alive Miami’s hopes for a playoff spot and that imperiled Cleveland’s hopes for the top seed in the East. Cleveland played without LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson; the Cavaliers have lost all seven games in which James has not played this season.

The Cavaliers were playing the night after they lost an overtime game at Atlanta in which they blew a 26-point, fourth-quarter lead. It marked the first time in the Cavaliers’ 47-season history that they have played overtime games on consecutive days. Prior to Sunday’s game, the Cavs had lost only one game this season in which they led by 10-or-more points in the fourth quarter.

Isaiah leads Celtics to 31st division title

Isaiah Thomas led the way with 27 points and the Celtics held the Nets to 36-percent shooting as Boston clinched its first Atlantic Division title in the last five years with a 114-105 victory. With that win and the Cavaliers’ overtime loss to the Heat, Boston moved into the driver’s seat for the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The division title was the Celtics’ 31st in the team’s 71-year history, the second-highest total in NBA history, three shy of the Lakers’ NBA record.

Thomas saw his scoring average fall a smidge to 29.147 points per game, but James Harden saw his average decline to 29.113 after scoring just 14 points later in the evening against the Clippers. So Thomas took over second place in the NBA scoring race, behind Russell Westbrook (31.9).

Giannis ties Kareem’s record

Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists—not Westbrookian numbers, but a triple-double nonetheless—in the Bucks’ 89-79 over the visiting Hornets. It was the third triple-double for Giannis this season, and the eighth in his NBA career, played entirely with the Bucks. That tied the Bucks’ record for triple-doubles in a career, a mark set by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar over his six seasons in Milwaukee from 1969 to 1975. (By the way, Oscar Robertson, whose NBA single-season record of 41 triple-doubles was surpassed by Russell Westbrook on Sunday, had a total of just five triple-doubles in his four seasons with the Bucks near the end of his career.)

Clippers join 15 other teams with single-season record for threes

The Clippers used a 36-12 domination of the third quarter to turn a close game into a rout, as they moved closer to clinching the home-court privilege for a first-round playoff series with a 125-96 victory over the Rockets. In fact, the 24-point margin by which the Clippers won the third quarter made it the most dominant third quarter in the franchise’s 47-season, 3805-game history.

The Clippers hit just 10 three-point shots against Houston, but they were enough to lift the team’s season total to 831, a new franchise record. And so the Clippers became the 16th of the NBA’s 30 teams to set a new single-season franchise record for three-point field goals this season. That’s right. Sixteen of the 30 teams, led by the Rockets, who boosted their NBA-record total of threes to 1162, with one game to go.

George paces Pacers for 20th time in last 21 games

Paul George scored 27 points as the Pacers rolled to a 120-111 victory in Philadelphia, and maintaining their edge for one of the NBA’s two unclaimed playoff spots. It was the most points that the Pacers have scored in a regulation-length victory in Philadelphia in 39 years, since a 127-118 win at the Spectrum on April 7, 1978. On Monday, George was the team’s leading scorer for the 20th time in Indiana’s last 21 games. This season, only two other NBA players have led their team in scoring (or tied for the lead) in 20 of 21 consecutive games that the team has played: Russell Westbrook and Isaiah Thomas (who led the Celtics in scoring in each of 32 consecutive games at one point of the season).

A Palace closes

Bradley Beal scored 33 points to lead the Wizards to a 105-101 victory over the Pistons in what is expected to be the final game played at the Palace of Auburn Hills. It was the 1164th regular-season game that the Pistons have played at the arena, which opened in 1988, and they finished exactly 300 games above .500 in those games: 732 wins, 432 losses.

50th win for Jazz, stops Warriors’ streak

The Jazz rode Rudy Gobert’s 17 points and 18 rebounds to a 105-99 victory in Oakland, writing finis to the Warriors’ 14-game winning streak. It was the 50th victory of the season for Utah, marking the first time in the last seven seasons that it has reached that plateau.

Napier, against Spurs, has a run reminiscent of Aldridge

Shabazz Napier led all scorers with a career-high 32 points in the Trail Blazers’ 99-98 victory over the visiting Spurs. At one point down the stretch, Napier scored 15 consecutive Portland points, the longest fourth-quarter streak of that sort by any Trail Blazers player since LaMarcus Aldridge scored 15 straight Portland points in the fourth quarter of a game against Denver on Jan. 23, 2014.

Robin Lopez: high scorer in big Bulls win

Robin Lopez led a balanced Bulls attack with 18 points in Chicago’s 122-75 win over the Magic, taking a day off the calendar in the team’s pursuit of a playoff spot. It was the second-largest margin of victory in the NBA this season, falling two points shy of the margin by which the Mavericks defeated the Lakers, 122-73, on January 22. It was also the widest victory margin that the Bulls have achieved since Feb. 22, 1991, when they thrashed the Kings, 129-82.

It was only the seventh time in nine seasons in the NBA that Lopez has led his team in points, or tied for the lead, in a victory. Lopez has spread those games out: He did it once with the Suns, three times with the Pelicans, once with the Trail Blazers, once with the Knicks, and now once with the Bulls.

Brook Lopez sets Nets’ all-time scoring record

Brook Lopez scored 25 points at Boston, and now has 10,444 points in his nine-season NBA career, spent entirely with the Nets. On Monday night, he surpassed Buck Williams (10,440) for the most points in franchise history. Only four other active players hold their current franchise’s record for career points: LeBron James, Cavaliers; Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks; DeMar DeRozan, Raptors; and Mike Conley, Grizzlies.

We also note that in the same game in which Lopez broke the team scoring record, he also tied Jason Kidd’s Nets record of 3954 missed field-goal attempts. Like they say, you play long enough, you wind up with all kinds of records.