Elias Says: April 22, 2017

Another historic achievement for Westbrook

Russell Westbrook scored 32 points to go with 13 rebounds and 11 assists in the Thunder’s 115–113 win over the Rockets. Westbrook, who had a 51–10–13 “TD line” in Game 2 of the series, is only the second player in NBA history to score at least 30 points in each of two consecutive triple-doubles in the playoffs. If you’ve been following Westbrook’s triple-double heroics throughout his historic season, you won’t be surprised to learn that the first was Oscar Robertson, who did it twice during the 1963 playoffs.

A lovely consolation prize for Harden in Houston’s loss

James Harden scored 44 points in the Rockets’ loss on Friday night, after scoring 37 and 35 points in the first two games of the series. Only three other players scored at least 35 points in each of their first three games of a postseason: Michael Jordan, who did it twice (1988 and 1990), Jerry West in 1965, and Bernard King in 1984.

Celtics make a statement with big road win

The Celtics roared back to life with a 104–87 victory at Chicago, narrowing the Bulls’ lead in their first-round series to two games to one. It was the largest margin of victory in 30 years by a road team that was down, 2–0, in a playoff series. The last such win was by Houston at Seattle in 1987, behind a game-high 33 points by Hakeem Olajuwon. The Sonics won that series in six games.

The largest margin of victory by a road team to close a playoff series to two-game-to-one was a 109–89 win by the Pistons over the Hawks at St. Louis in 1958. That game was notable for the fact that four future Hall of Famers played for each team: George Yardley, Harry Gallatin, Dick McGuire, and Nathaniel “Sweetwater” Clifton for Detroit; Bob Pettit, Cliff Hagan, Easy Ed Macauley, and Slater Martin for St. Louis.

Gordon Hayward, who shot 27 percent from the field in six previous playoff games, scored 40 points on Friday and still it wasn’t enough as the Clippers topped the Jazz, 111–106. No Utah player has scored as many as 40 points in a regular-season game since Al Jefferson did it in April 2013. The Jazz’ streak is 330 regular-season games without a 40-point performance is currently the third longest of its type in the NBA.

Cubs’ road rally is one for the ages

The Cubs defeated the Reds, 6–5, on Kris Bryant’s sacrifice fly in the 11th inning after Anthony Rizzo’s three-run home run tied the game in the top of the ninth. The Cubs trailed 7–4 in the 6th inning on Tuesday and 4–1 in the sixth on Wednesday, winning both of those games against the Brewers. Here’s the payoff: The last time the Cubs won three straight games after trailing by three or more runs in each was July 24–26, 1929, against the Giants and Phillies. Hack Wilson hit three home runs and drove in 10 runs in those games.

Friday’s victory was also Chicago’s first road win in this century after trailing by three or more runs heading to the ninth inning. The Cubs’ last such victory came at Atlanta in 1998. The last time they won such a game at Cincinnati was 65 years ago—a 9–8 victory at Crosley Field in which the Cubs rallied for seven runs after their first two batters in the ninth inning were retired.

The Pirates are MLB’s ultimate weekend warriors

The Pirates kept the oddest record in baseball pristine with a 6–3 win over the Yankees. Pittsburgh in undefeated on weekends this season, with a 7–0 record on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. But the Pirates haven’t won a game on a weekday; they are 0–9 from Monday through Thursday. No other team in major-league history remained winless on weekdays and unbeaten on weekends nearly this far into a season. The previous record—can we call it that?—was 11 games by the Boston Braves in 1923.

Britton or Brach, it’s all the same to O’s

With Zach Britton on the disabled list, Brad Brach has stepped into the Orioles’ closer role with a flair. Brach, who was credited with only three saves in 288 major-league appearances prior to this season, closed out Baltimore’s 2–0 win over the Red Sox on Friday without allowing a base runner—that is, no hits, walks, or HBPs allowed— just as he did in earning saves against the Reds on Wednesday and Thursday. He is only the fourth pitcher in Orioles history with “perfect saves” on three consecutive days. Britton himself did it only once (July 21–23 last season); the others were Jorge Julio (2003), Jim Johnson (2011), and Darren O’Day (2015).

Blame it on Coors

Charlie Blackmon hit an inside-the-park home run during the Rockies’ six-run third inning in a 6–3 victory over the Giants. Yes, it was at Coors Field; and yes, even inside-the-park homers are more common there than elsewhere. Since the stadium opened in 1995, there have been 12 IPHR’s there. The only other stadiums with at least 12 during that time are Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City (20) and Sun Life Stadium, home of the Marlins from 1993 to 2011 (16).

Bottom of the order delivers for Rangers

The bottom of the Rangers’ batting order delivered power on Friday night, as Texas defeated Kansas City, 6–2, with Robinson Chirinos and Joey Gallo hitting two home runs apiece. Chirinos batted sixth in the Rangers’ lineup; Gallo batted eighth. Over the last three seasons, there was only one other game in which teammates batting sixth or lower in the order hit at least two homers each, and that was also by the Rangers. Chirinos (batting ninth) and Rougned Odor (batting sixth) did the damage in a 7–5 win at Oakland last June.

Beltran on a roll as he approaches #40

Carlos Beltran, who will turn 40 years old on Monday, homered for the second straight night as the Astros defeated the Rays, 6–3. Beltran has hit 27 home runs since his last birthday. Over the last 10 years, the only other player to hit as many home runs as a 39-year-old as Beltran was David Ortiz (37). The record for home runs at age 39 is 40, by Hank Aaron.

Adam Wainwright homered and drove in four runs, earning his first win of the season after three losses, as the Cardinals defeated the Brewers, 6–3. Wainwright also drove in four runs in his victory over the Rockies last September. The only other Cardinals pitcher with two wins in which he had at least four RBIs was Bob Gibson, who did it four times.

Kluber finds his groove in April

Corey Kluber, a perennially slow starter, allowed three singles and two walks in a complete-game shutout as the Indians defeated the White Sox, 3–0. Despite the victory, Kluber’s career record in the month of April remains below .500 (7–10) and his April ERA stands at 4.05. If you’re wondering about a turning point, Kluber’s record is 9–15 through May 10, 51–30 thereafter.­

Familia’s familiar problem

Jeurys Familia walked Trea Turner with the bases loaded in the 11th inning to deliver the winning run in the Nationals’ 4–3 victory over the Mets. It was hardly the first time Familia had forced home a run with a base on balls; he has faced 47 batters with the bases loaded and walked seven of them. But only one of the first six produced the game’s winning run—to Chris Coghlan of the Cubs in 2015.

Verlander coughs one up

You’d think the Tigers were in safe territory with Justin Verlander taking a 3–0 lead to the bottom of the sixth at Minnesota. But the Twins rallied for six runs—four were charged to Verlander—and held on for a 6–3 victory. Coming into the game, Verlander had a 129–5 record when staked to a lead of three or more runs (11 no-decisions).

Who needs home runs anyway?

The Phillies banged 11 hits off Bartolo Colon, none longer than double, in a 4–3 win over the Braves. It was the second time this season that Philadelphia won a home game without hitting a home run. That might not seem unusual, but it is at Citizens Bank Park where last season the Phillies lost 20 consecutive games in which they failed to hit a homer (May 15 to Sept. 30). Since 2014, their record is 25–66 in game without a home run at CBP (a .275 winning percentage).

Whatever the uniform, Williams is Mr. Clutch

Justin Williams scored a goal just over a minute into overtime that gave the Capitals a 2–1 win over the Maple Leafs and a three-games-to-two lead in their first-round series. It was Williams’ first game-winning playoff goal for Washington, although he previously scored playoff game-winners for the Flyers (1), Hurricanes (1), and Kings (4). Williams joins Marian Hossa as the only active players who have scored game-winning goals in the postseason for four different teams. Hossa has done so for the Senators (3), Penguins (2), Red Wings (1), and Blackhawks (6).

Young Matthews scores again

Auston Matthews scored the only goal for the Maple Leafs in their loss to the Capitals, after scoring a goal in each of the previous two games. The 19-year-old Matthews is the first teenager to score a goal in each of three consecutive team games in one playoff year since Dainius Zubrus did so at age 18 for the Flyers in 1997. Matthews is the first Maple Leafs rookie to score goals in three straight games in one playoff year since Wendel Clark had a four-game streak in 1986.

Bruins rookie keeps their hopes alive

The Bruins remain alive in their series against the Senators mostly thanks to rookie Sean Kuraly, who scored the first two goals of his NHL career, regular-season or playoffs, including the game-winner at the 10:19 mark of the second overtime period, as Boston avoided elimination with a 3–2 victory in Game 5 at Ottawa. Kuraly is the first player in NHL history to score two goals in a playoff game, including one in overtime, having never before scored a goal in a regular-season or postseason NHL game.

Kuraly is the third rookie in the NHL’s modern era to score a goal in the second OT period or later that enabled his team to avoid elimination from a playoff series. The only other such goals by rookies since the 1944 playoffs were by the Flyers’ Don Blackburn at St. Louis in 1968 (Game 6 of a first-round series) and the Devils’ Adam Henrique at Florida in 2012 (Game 7 of a first-round series).

Kuraly is the second rookie in Bruins history to score a “multiple-overtime goal” in any playoff game. The first was Mel Hill, who scored three overtime goals as a Bruins rookie in one series against the Rangers in 1939, including two in triple-overtime. That feat earned him the nickname “Sudden Death.”