Elias Says: April 15, 2017

Canadiens score late in regulation and win in OT

The Canadiens were less than 20 seconds away from trailing two games to none in their series against the Rangers, but Tomas Plekanec’s goal with 17.3 seconds remaining in the third period tied the score in Game 2 at 3–3, and Alexander Radulov’s goal at the 18:34 mark of overtime earned Montreal a series-tying 4–3 win. Plekanec’s tally was the latest score-tying playoff goal in the Canadiens’ NHL history, breaking the mark set by Jacques Lemaire at 19:36 of the third period in Game 1 of Montreal’s Semi-Final series versus Buffalo in 1975. (The Sabres won that game in overtime.)

Radulov’s goal was the seventh of his NHL playoff career and his first postseason goal for the Canadiens. Radulov is the sixth player in the NHL’s expansion era (i.e., since 1968) whose first playoff goal for Montreal was an overtime winner. The others are Larry Robinson (1973), Cam Connor (1979), Brian Skrudland (1986), Vincent Damphousse (1993) and Dale Weise (2014).

Oilers are better when shorthanded

The Oilers evened their series against the Sharks at a game apiece with a 2–0 win in which both of their goals, by Zack Kassian and Connor McDavid, were scored when San Jose was on the power play. Edmonton is the third team ever to win a playoff game in which all its goals were shorthanded. The Canadiens won 1–0 at St. Louis in Game 2 of the 1968 Stanley Cup Final on a goal by Serge Savard. And the Ducks defeated the Wild 2–0 in Game 2 of the 2003 Western Conference Final on shorties by Kurt Sauer and Rob Niedermayer.

Neither Kassian nor McDavid had ever scored a playoff goal before Friday. The last pair of teammates to each score their first postseason goal in the same game, each shorthanded, was the Rangers (Bob Brooke and Kelly Miller) against the Flyers in Game 1 of a first-round series in 1986.

The last pair of Edmonton teammates to score shorthanded goals in a playoff game were Jarri Kurri and Wayne Gretzky in a Game 4 second-round win at Calgary.

Crosby’s three-point game includes 50th playoff goal

Sidney Crosby tallied one goal and two assists as the Penguins recorded a 4–1 victory in Game 2 of their series against the Blue Jackets. It was Crosby’s first three-point game of the 2017 playoffs and the 11th game with three points or more in his Stanley Cup playoff career. Since 2007, when Crosby made his NHL postseason debut, the only other player who’s produced at least 11 three-point games in the Stanley Cup playoffs is his Penguins teammate, Evgeni Malkin, with 13.

Crosby’s goal was the 50th of his Stanley Cup playoff career. The 29-year-old Crosby is the 57th player in NHL history to score 50 postseason goals but only the 19th to reach that mark before his 30th birthday. The last player before Crosby to reach the 50-goal plateau for playoff goals before turning 30 years old was Peter Forsberg, who did that in 2002 at age 28.

Fleury thwarts Blue Jackets again

Marc-Andre Fleury made 39 saves in his 4–1 victory in Game 2 of the Penguins’ series against the Blue Jackets after recording 31 saves in his 3–1 win in the series opener. This is the fifth time that a Penguins goaltender won the first two games of a playoff series while allowing no more than one goal in each game. Les Binkley was the first to do that for the Penguins (against Oakland in 1970), Ron Tugnutt pulled off that feat twice in the 2000 playoffs (versus Washington and Philadelphia) and Johan Hedberg was the most recent to do so before Fleury (against Buffalo in 2001).

Schwartz scores late game-winner

Jaden Schwartz’s goal with 2:27 remaining in the third period snapped a 1–1 tie and earned the Blues a 2–1 victory and a two games to none lead in their series against the Wild. This was only the second time in the last 26 years that a Blues player scored a go-ahead goal in the final five minutes of regulation time in a playoff game. The only other such goal for St. Louis since 1991 was scored by Barret Jackman at the 19:09 mark of the third period in Game 2 of the Blues’ first-round matchup against the Kings in 2013. St. Louis won the first two games of that series, but the Blues went home for the summer after losing the next four games.

Edmundson scores in two straight games

Defenseman Joel Edmundson, who scored the overtime goal for the Blues in Game 1 of their series against the Wild, scored the first goal for St. Louis in its 2–1 victory in Game 2. He’s the first Blues defenseman to score a goal in each of two consecutive games in one playoff year since Alexander Khavanov did that in Games 3 and 4 of St. Louis’ second-round sweep of the Dallas Stars in 2001. Edmundson is the first Blues d-man to score a goal in each of the team’s first two games of a playoff year since Al MacInnis in 1999.

A new home sweet home for Inciarte and Braves

The Braves began their tenure at SunTrust Park in the best possible way, winning their regular season debut, 5–2, over the Padres. Ender Inciarte became the first player on either team to notch a base hit, reaching on an infield single to lead off the bottom of the first. Inciarte became the first player to score a run at the park as well, scoring on a double by Nick Markakis later in the inning. The Braves were 10–7 last season in games that Inciarte scored in the first inning, including a 6–2 mark at Turner Field.

Inciarte finished his standout day by becoming the first player to hit a home run at SunTrust Park; the Braves leadoff hitter capped the scoring with a two-run shot in the bottom of the sixth inning. Among the 30 stadiums currently in use, there is only one other ballpark in which the first regular season home run there was hit by a team’s leadoff hitter. In the first Mets game played at Citi Field on April 13, 2009, Padres leadoff hitter Jody Gerut hit the third pitch of the game by Mets starter Mike Pelfrey into the stands to become the first player in that ballpark’s history to notch a hit, run, and home run.

Murphy’s extra-special start to season

From 2011 to 2016, Daniel Murphy batted .177 (14 for 79) in extra innings, the second-lowest average in the major leagues (minimum: 75 such at-bats) ahead of Martin Prado (.157). But Murphy is 2-for-2 in that situation this year, including Friday’s 10th-inning double that plated Bryce Harper with the winning run in the Nationals’ walkoff victory against the Phillies.

Castro clubs Cardinals

Starlin Castro was 2-for-4 with a home run in the Yankees’ win over the Cardinals. Over his last seven games against St. Louis, dating back to September 2015, Castro is batting .619 (13 for 21) with four homers and 13 runs batted in.

Friday’s game was Castro’s 100th versus the Cardinals. Seven active players have appeared in at least 100 games versus St. Louis––Castro, Brandon Phillips, Ryan Braun, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Andrew McCutchen and Rickie Weeks. Among them, only Votto (.313) and Castro (.304) have lifetime batting averages over .300 against St. Louis.

Marlins catcher is real deal

J.T. Realmuto’s two-out double in the bottom of the ninth inning drove in the winning run in the Marlins’ 3–2 victory over the Mets. Realmuto is 3-for-3 in late-inning pressure situations with two outs and men on base this season––with a home run, double, single and four RBIs––after he entered this year with an .087 (2 for 23) career average in that situation.

O’s middle infield spurs comeback win

Jonathan Schoop and J.J. Hardy homered in the fifth inning to give the Orioles a lead they would not relinquish against the Blue Jays. That inning marked the third time in the last 15 seasons that both of Baltimore’s middle infielders homered in the same inning. That also happened for the O’s on Sept. 5, 2013 against the White Sox (Brian Roberts and Hardy) and April 8, 2016 versus the Rays (Schoop and Manny Machado). Coincidentally, both of those occurrences, like Friday’s, took place in the fifth inning.

Jays fans are mighty Blue after latest loss

The bad news for the Blue Jays and their fans is that no major-league team has started a season 1–9 or worse in its first 10 decisions and then qualified for the postseason. The silver lining is that in each of the previous 14 years (2003–16), at least one team has lost nine times in the span of 10 games at some point in the season and gone on to make the postseason. This includes last year’s champion – the Cubs lost nine of 10 spanning June/July 2016 – as well as the Giants, who lost nine of 10 in both 2010 and 2014 and went on to win the World Series both years.

Norris is a road warrior

Daniel Norris pitched six scoreless innings to lead the Tigers to victory over the Indians at Cleveland. Norris improved to 7–0 with a 2.67 earned-run average in 16 road starts in his major-league career. Only one other pitcher over the last 20 years earned a win in each of his first seven road decisions as a starting pitcher. Jim Brower won his first seven road decisions as a starting pitcher from 1999 to 2003.

Cole ranks second to another Cole

Gerrit Cole improved to 7–1 with a 2.29 ERA at Wrigley Field by virtue of the Pirates’ 4–2 victory over the Cubs on Friday afternoon. The only active pitcher who has made at least five starts as a visitor in the Friendly Confines and has a lower road ERA there than Cole is Cole Hamels (1.76).

Powerful Perez homers again

Salvador Perez homered for the fifth time this season in the Royals’ 7–1 victory over the Angels. Perez’s five home runs are tied for the most by any Royals player within Kansas City’s first 10 games of a season. Four other Royals players hit five homers through 10 team games: Mike Sweeney (2000), Mark Quinn (2001), Carlos Beltran (2004), and Jose Guillen (2010).

Rays don’t care that Porcello won Cy Young

In his third start of the season, reigning Cy Young winner Rick Porcello allowed four home runs, one apiece to Shane Peterson, Logan Morrison, Brad Miller, and Steven Souza Jr. It was the first time that a defending Cy Young award winner allowed four or more homers in a start within his first three starts of a season. The only other reigning winner to allow four or more homers in a start within his first five starts was the Orioles’ Mike Cuellar in 1970. Cuellar allowed four home runs to the Royals in Kansas City in his fourth start that year.

Debuters dominating

It was a solid major-league debut for Dylan Covey of the White Sox, who allowed one run on five hits and three walks in five-and-one-third innings, striking out one in a no-decision. Among the six pitchers who have made their big-league debut as starters in 2017, five have allowed two-or-fewer earned runs. Those pitchers are a combined 2–0 with a 2.40 ERA, and their teams have won all six games! The last time teams started 6–0 in games started by pitchers making their major-league debuts was in 1991. In that season, teams won the first seven games in which starting pitchers were making their debuts. Among the pitchers in 1991’s run, none compiled more than 20 career wins: Bob Scanlan (20–34, 4.63), Ramon Garcia (17–16, 4.84), Joe Slusarski (13–21, 5.18), Wade Taylor (7–12, 6.27), Denis Boucher (6–11, 5.42), Kirk Dressendorfer (3–3, 5.45), and Pat Rice (1¬–1, 3.00).

Cruz control resumes

Nelson Cruz hit a fourth-inning home run Friday, his first home run of 2017 in his 40th at bat of the season. For Cruz it was the longest homerless at bat streak to start a season since 2007. In that season, playing for the Rangers, he did not hit his first homer until at-bat number 88.

This used to be Greinke’s playground

Zack Greinke was 51–15 (.772) with a 2.30 ERA from 2013–2015, and over that span, he was 28–5 with a 2.01 ERA in 46 starts at Dodger Stadium. Friday night, Greinke got the loss at Chavez Ravine, allowing five runs on 10 hits in five innings; and last season in his one start there on September 5, he allowed eight runs in four-and-two-thirds innings. Combined, Greinke is 0–2 with a 12.10 ERA in Los Angeles since leaving the Dodgers. Three other pitchers to debut since earned runs were first compiled in both leagues (1913) won 50 games with a .650+ winning percentage over a three-year span with a team, then later left that team and started 0–2 with a 9.00 ERA-or-higher at his former home venue: Don Sutton at the Dodgers (0–2, 10.50), Tom Glavine at the Braves (0–2, 15.26), and Barry Zito at the A’s (0–2, 10.97).

Johnny Cue3–0

Johnny Cueto notched a win tonight versus the Rockies to improve to 3–0, allowing two runs on six hits and one walk in seven innings, striking out six. Cueto also won his first three starts in 2016. Since the Giants franchise moved to San Francisco in 1958, Cueto is one of two Giants pitcher to win his first three starts of a season in consecutive seasons. Rick Reuschel did that in 1988 and 1989.