Elias Says: April 24, 2017

A close sweep

The Cavaliers eliminated the Pacers in four games but their first-round matchup was tighter than that indicates. Cleveland outscored Indiana by just 16 points in the series, tying the lowest point differential in a four-game playoff sweep in NBA history. When the Warriors won the NBA title in 1975, by virtue of a four-games-to-none dismissal of the Bullets, they outscored Washington by just 16 total points.

Nene steals the show

Nene stole the show from James Harden and Russell Westbrook by going 12-for-12 from the field and scoring 28 points in the Rockets’ victory over the Thunder. Nene tied a 42-year-old NBA record for the most field goals made without a miss in a playoff game, set by the Kansas City-Omaha Kings’ forward Larry McNeil (against the Bulls) in 1975.

Westbrook’s third straight triple-double

Westbrook did become the second player in NBA history to record a triple-double in three straight playoff games and the first to do so within one series. Wilt Chamberlain reached double figures in points, rebounds and assist in four straight games for the 76ers during the 1967 playoffs; two of those games were in the Eastern Division Finals against the Celtics and two were in the Finals against the San Francisco Warriors.

Jazz win with big assist from Ingles

Joe Ingles, who had never before reached double figures in assists in an NBA game, handed out 11 of them to help the Jazz even their series with the Clippers. Ingles is the 20th player in NBA history whose first career game with at least 10 assists came in the playoffs. He joins a group that includes Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Patrick Ewing, and Dwyane Wade.

Butler’s 19 free throws not enough

Jimmy Butler went 19-for-23 from the foul line and scored 33 points in the Bulls’ loss to the Celtics. Free-throw statistics like that are typically recorded by a player for the winning team. Each of the last nine players who had made at least 19 foul shots in a playoff game did so for the team that won the game. Butler’s 19 free throws were the most in a losing effort in the playoffs since May 1995, when the Suns’ Kevin Johnson went 21-for-22 in a 115-114 loss to the Rockets.

MacArthur clinches series with OT goal

Clarke MacArthur, who played in only four games and did not score a goal during the 2016–17 regular season, scored the overtime goal that gave the Senators a series-clinching 3–2 victory over the Bruins. MacArthur, who made his season debut on April 4 after recovering from a concussion suffered during training camp last September, is the fifth player in NHL history to score a series-clinching overtime goal in the Stanley Cup playoffs after not scoring any goals during the preceding regular season. The other players to do that were Detroit’s Adam Brown in 1943, Colorado’s Uwe Krupp in 1996 (in triple-overtime in the Stanley Cup Final!), Detroit’s Darren Helm in 2009 and Pittsburgh’s Brooks Orpik in 2013.

Four-game goal streak for Matthews

Auston Matthews scored a goal for the Maple Leafs in each of the last four games of their series against the Capitals. The 19-year-old Matthews is only the second teenager in NHL history to score a goal in each of four consecutive team playoff games in one year. The other teen with a four-game goal streak also did so for the Maple Leafs: Wendel Clark at age 19 in 1986. Matthews is the first rookie on any NHL team to produce a four-game goal-scoring streak in one playoff year since Logan Couture did that for the Sharks in 2011.

Johansson carries Capitals

Marcus Johansson scored the tying goal in the third period and the winning goal in overtime as the Capitals wrapped up their first-round series against the Maple Leafs with a 2 –1 victory at Toronto in Game 6. Johansson is the third NHL player in the last 30 years to produce a multiple-goal game while scoring every goal for his team as they recorded a series-clinching playoff win in overtime. The other players to do that since 1987 are Alex Burrows for the Canucks in 2011 (Game 7 vs. Chicago, 2–1) and John Tavares in 2016 (Game 6 vs. Florida, 2–1).

Benintendi goes 5-for-5

Andrew Benintendi stroked five hits in five at-bats at Baltimore on Sunday, and at age 22 he is the youngest Red Sox player to have a 5-for-5 game. The previous youngest was Babe Ruth, who went 5-for-5 for Boston on May 9, 1918 when he was 23 years old. Ruth was the pitcher in that game, a 10-inning, complete-game loss at Washington. But after his big day at the plate, the Babe started in the outfield for the first time as a major-leaguer the very next day.

Only two other active players had a five-hit game (regardless of the number of at-bats) in April as a rookie: Austin Jackson in 2010 and Aledmys Diaz last year.

Cruz belts first road homer

Nelson Cruz’s home run at Oakland on Sunday was his first in 11 games away from home this year. Cruz hit at least 25 homers in road games in each of the past three seasons (2014–2016), joining Babe Ruth, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa as the only players in major-league history to do that in at least three consecutive seasons.

Scherzer strikes again

Max Scherzer struck out nine batters and earned the win Sunday night at Citi Field. Scherzer’s 55 strikeouts over his last five games against the Mets––beginning with his no-hitter in October 2015––tie the record for a five-game span. Two other pitchers struck out 55 Mets batters over five games, each coincidentally for the Reds: Jim Maloney in the 1960s and Mario Soto in the 1980s.

Nova wins but walkless streak ends

Ivan Nova defeated his old team on Sunday, throwing seven innings against the Yankees and allowing just one run. But Nova did walk a batter; he threw four balls to, of all people, rookie pitcher Jordan Montgomery, who was making the first plate appearance of his big-league career. That ended Nova’s streak of 154 batters faced without a walk, a stretch that dated back to September. It was the longest current walkless streak in the majors and the longest for any pitcher since Matt Shoemaker had a streak of 154 in the spring of 2016.

Arroyo wins 14th against Cubs

Bronson Arroyo limited the Cubs to two runs over six innings and earned his 14th win against them, breaking a tie with Adam Wainwright for the most among active pitchers. Arroyo’s history opposing the Cubs dates back to April 13, 2001, when he was with the Pirates and faced them for the first time. The heart of Chicago’s batting order that day at Wrigley Field consisted of Sammy Sosa, Todd Hundley and Rondell White.

Astros overcome another large deficit

The Astros spotted the Rays a 4–0 first-inning lead, but rallied to win in extra innings, 6–4. It’s a major-league-high third time this season that Houston won a game in which it trailed by at least four runs. The Astros had only two wins of that kind all of last season.

Hicks drives in five runs

John Hicks contributed three hits and five RBIs to the Tigers’ win against the Twins. It was the earliest in a season by calendar date that a Detroit rookie drove in five runs in one game since April 20, 1949, when Johnny Groth knocked in every Detroit run in a 5–2 victory against the White Sox at Briggs Stadium. The Tigers’ season started on April 19 that year, and over their first two games, Groth went 5-for-7 with three homers and seven runs batted in.

Giants hit rock bottom

The struggling Giants lost to the Rockies, 12–3, on Saturday and by the score of 8–0 on Sunday. It is the first time in Bruce Bochy’s 11 seasons as their manager that they lost consecutive games, each by at least eight runs. The last time San Francisco suffered back-to-back defeats of that kind was in September 2006, coincidentally also at Colorado, in the closing days of Felipe Alou’s tenure as the Giants’ manager.

Leake helps himself

Mike Leake broke a 2-2 tie with a two-run single and threw six innings to help the Cardinals defeat the Brewers. Leake is the second major-league pitcher this season to earn a win and drive in multiple runs in the same game. The first was his teammate, Adam Wainwright, on Friday night.

Back-to-back-to-back from top of the order

Cesar Hernandez, Aaron Altherr and Odubel Herrera connected for consecutive home runs in the eighth inning powering the Phillies to a 5–2 win against the Braves. The only other major-league team in the last five seasons whose 1-2-3 hitters in the batting order went back-to-back-to-back like that was the Giants at Milwaukee on Opening Day of 2016 (Denard Span, Joe Panik and Buster Posey).

Saladino strong in first inning

The White Sox scored three runs in the first inning and that was all the offense they needed in Sunday’s 6–2 triumph over the Indians. Tyler Saladino was in the middle of that three-run frame, with a single and a run scored. He then struck out in his next four at-bats. Saladino is batting .417 in the first inning this season (5 for 12), but .143 in all other at-bats (5 for 35).

Rangers extend dominance of Royals

The Rangers defeated the Royals for their 10th straight victory versus Kansas City. Texas has allowed only 19 runs over those 10 games and it is the team’s longest winning streak against a particular opponent since taking 12 in a row against the Astros during 2013 and 2014.

Gonzalez snaps extra-base hit drought

Adrian Gonzalez cracked two doubles on Sunday and the first snapped his streak of 51 at-bats without an extra-base hit. It was the second time in the last year that Gonzalez went at least 50 at-bats without a double, triple or homer. He had a career-long 61-at-bat drought of that kind from April 22 to May 11, 2016. Gonzalez had only three other streaks of that kind in his career and none from the summer of 2010 to April of last year.