Elias Says: May 6, 2017

Cavaliers take 3–0 lead after huge second half in Toronto

After three quarters in which neither team assumed a lead of double-digits, the Cavaliers dominated the Raptors in the fourth quarter to cap a 115–94 victory in Game 3 and take a commanding three-games-to-none lead in the series. The Cavaliers trailed by three points at halftime in Toronto but took the lead for good in the third quarter before outscoring the Raptors 36–17 in the fourth. The last team before Cleveland to win a playoff game on the road by more than 20 points after trailing at the half was the Jazz, who won Game 4 of their opening round series with the Rockets in 1998 by 21 points at Houston.

Unprecedented start of playoffs for LeBron

LeBron James has compiled 240 points, 63 rebounds, and 51 assists in seven playoff games this year, all wins for the Cavaliers. There were 15 previous instances of a player scoring at least 240 points in his first seven games of a playoff year, but none of those players also totaled at least 60 rebounds and 50 or more assists. Michael Jordan came the closest, having produced 248 points, 47 rebounds, and 56 assists through his first seven games of the 1989 playoffs.

3–0 lead is a familiar sight for James

This is the 39th playoff series in LeBron James’s NBA career, and this is the 13th of those series in which his team won the first three games. That’s tied with Tim Duncan for the most best-of-seven playoff series in which a player’s team won the first three games. Of the previous 12 best-of-seven playoff series in which James’s team went up 3–0, ten ended in a sweep and two ended in five games.

Spurs forwards step up in Game 3

Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge provided the one-two scoring punch for the Spurs in their 103–92 Game 3 victory over the Rockets in Houston. Leonard and Aldridge scored 26 points each, with the majority of their points (16 for Leonard, 14 for Aldridge) coming in the second half. The Spurs are now 11–0 when both Leonard and Aldridge score 25 or more points for San Antonio in the same game, including 9–0 in the regular season and 2–0 in the playoffs.

Leonard does it all for San Antonio

Kawhi Leonard also led the Spurs with 10 rebounds and seven assists in Game 3. That’s the second time in this series that Leonard led San Antonio (or tied for the team-lead) in points, rebounds, and assists; he also did that in the Spurs’ Game 1 loss (21 points, 11 rebounds, six assists). Tim Duncan was the only other Spurs player before Leonard on Friday to post team-high totals in points, rebounds, and assists in a playoff victory. Duncan led or co-led those categories in 13 playoff wins for San Antonio.

Big night for Harden is not enough for Rockets

James Harden poured in 43 points for the Rockets in Game 3, marking his second-highest scoring output of the 2017 playoffs (he scored 44 in the Rockets’ Game 3 loss to the Thunder). Harden is the second player in franchise history to score 40 or more points in multiple losses for Houston within a single playoff year. The Rockets lost two games in which Hakeem Olajuwon reached 40 points in the 1995 playoffs.

Ducks fly into OT after flurry of late goals

The Ducks trailed 3–0 in the final minutes of regulation in Game 5 versus the Oilers before scoring three goals in quick succession to force overtime. Richard Rakell tied it with 15 seconds remaining in the third period after goals by Ryan Getzlaf at 16:44 and Cam Fowler at 17:19. Only one team prior to Anaheim overcame a three-goal deficit with 5:00 or less remaining to win or force overtime in a playoff game. In Game 3 of their first-round series with the Stars, the Oilers scored three goals in the final four minutes to force overtime. Edmonton prevailed in the extra period, winning 4–3.

Another game-winner for Schwartz

Jaden Schwartz scored a tiebreaking goal only 25 seconds after the third period began and that goal was the game-winner for the Blues as they avoided elimination in their series against the Predators with a 2–1 victory in Game 5. Schwartz has scored the winning goal in three of the Blues’ six wins in this year’s playoffs, having previously done so in Games 2 and 3 of St. Louis’ first-round series versus Minnesota. Schwartz, who had only one game-winning goal to his credit in the Stanley Cup playoffs before 2017, has tied the Blues record for game-winners in one playoff year. Brett Hull set that mark in 1988 and equaled it in 1990, and it has since been tied by Scott Young (2001), David Backes (2016) and now Schwartz.

Gardner rakes with no time to spare

With the Yankees one strike from being shut out at Wrigley Field, Brett Gardner golfed a go-ahead three-run homer off Cubs reliever Hector Rondon, propelling New York to a 3–2 win over Chicago. The last major-league player to hit a go-ahead home run in the ninth inning or later with the opposing team one strike away from completing a shutout victory was Marcell Ozuna on July 8, 2014. The Marlins outfielder hit a two-run homer on a 2–2 count with two outs in the top of the ninth inning off Diamondbacks closer Addison Reed to steal a 2–1 win for the Marlins at Arizona.

Cubs can’t close out Yankees

The Cubs have won 198 of their last 200 games in which they led by multiple runs at the end of eight innings. Both of those losses occurred at Wrigley Field, and both of them came at the hands of the Yankees. Prior to Friday, Chicago’s last loss in a game with a multi-run lead entering the ninth inning took place on May 21, 2014. Rondon also blew a 2–0 ninth-inning lead against the Yanks that day, with the tying run scoring on a throwing error by Darwin Barney. After knotting the score in the ninth, New York scored two runs in the top of the 13th inning to come away victorious.

Heyward helps with two double plays

Jason Heyward did his part to keep the Yankees from scoring in the early innings by starting two double plays from right field. Heyward dove to catch a liner by Starlin Castro and doubled off Aaron Hicks at second base to end the first inning, and in the sixth inning Heyward caught a line drive hit by Chase Headley and gunned down Castro at the plate trying to score. It had been more than five years since the last time an outfielder was involved in multiple double plays within a single game, with more than 12,000 games played over that span. Lance Berkman was the last outfielder to record a putout or assist on multiple double plays in a game, doing so on Sept. 13, 2011 for the Cardinals at Pittsburgh. Two other active players besides Heyward have been involved in two double plays from an outfield position within a single game – Jay Bruce (2008) and Adam Jones (2011).

Great first impression by Ynoa in Baltimore

Orioles starter Wade Miley departed in the first inning after being struck with a pair of comebackers, and manager Buck Showalter tapped rookie Gabriel Ynoa to enter in relief. Ynoa, who had never pitched for the Orioles before Friday, responded to the challenging assignment by hurling six scoreless innings of relief against the White Sox to earn the win. Ynoa is the second pitcher in the last 40 seasons to earn a win in his first game with a team after throwing at least six scoreless innings in relief. The only other pitcher with such a debut for a team in that span was Ray Burris, who joined the Oakland A’s in 1984 and won his first game with them by pitching six scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Ynoa also became the second pitcher in Orioles/Browns franchise history to achieve that feat. On April 27, 1906, Ed Smith pitched 7⅔ scoreless innings out of the bullpen for the St. Louis Browns to record a win. That game, like Ynoa’s on Friday, was against the White Sox.

Mauer cracks first walkoff homer

The Twins walked off with a victory against the Red Sox thanks to a game-ending home run by Joe Mauer, the first walkoff bomb of his major-league career. Mauer had three walkoff RBIs with the Twins prior to Friday, but he has generally struggled in potential walkoff situations. Before his homer, Mauer had batted .176 in at-bats with the potential to record a game-ending RBI, with no extra-base hits in 68 at-bats of that kind prior to Friday.

Ziegler knocked around by Mets

Mets hitters went 6-for-6 against Brad Ziegler in the seventh inning, sparking a five-run rally for New York in the Mets’ victory over the Marlins at Citi Field. The last game in which Mets batters rapped base hits in at least six consecutive plate appearances took place on April 13, 2013 at Minnesota. Seven straight batters hit safely for New York in the fifth inning, though that included a single by Ike Davis who was thrown out trying to advance to second base.

Ziegler meanwhile became the second pitcher in Marlins history to face at least six batters in a game and allow hits to all of them. On June 27, 2003 at Fenway Park, starter Carl Pavano faced six Red Sox hitters in the first inning and allowed a hit to each of them before getting pulled. Boston crossed the plate 14 times in that inning, tying the American League record for most runs in a first inning, and went on to defeat Florida, 25–8.

Albers saves the day

Matt Albers became the fifth Nationals reliever to record a save this season after closing out Washington’s 4–2 win over the Phillies. Though Albers had finished 102 games in his major-league career prior to Friday, he did not qualify for a save in any of those contests. Albers had been one of two players that debuted since 1969 – the year saves became an official statistic – and finished at least 100 games in the majors without recording a save. Ryan Webb now stands alone on that list, having been his team’s final pitcher in 105 games without ever tallying a save.

Strasburg strong once again in Philly

Matt Albers saved the win for Stephen Strasburg, who improved to 3–1 on the season after pitching 5⅔ scoreless innings in Philadelphia. Strasburg has dominated the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park in his major-league career, compiling a 3–0 record with an ERA of 1.45 in eight starts at that ballpark. Strasburg’s is the lowest earned run average of any pitcher with more than five starts at Citizens Bank Park. Julio Teheran ranks second on that list with a 1.55 ERA in six starts there.

Blue Jays pull ahead late thanks to Morales

Kendrys Morales hit a pair of clutch longballs for the Blue Jays in their 8–4 victory over the Rays at Tropicana Field. Morales hit a game-tying homer in the top of the seventh inning off Chris Archer, then in the following inning he put Toronto in front with a three-run blast off Jumbo Diaz. Morales is the second player in Blue Jays history to hit a pair of lead-changing home runs – either game-tying or go-ahead – in the seventh inning or later of a road game. On Sept. 8, 1999, Carlos Delgado hit a pair of lead-assuming homers, one in the seventh inning and another in the ninth, at Safeco Field. Delgado’s clutch hitting was not enough for the Blue Jays that day, however, as the Mariners walked off with a win after a game-ending home run by Tom Lampkin in the bottom of the ninth. That makes Morales’s feat on Friday a first by a Blue Jays player in a road victory.

A good night to be pitching for St. Louis

Lance Lynn cruised to an easy win over the Braves at SunTrust Park thanks to 10 runs of support from his Cardinals teammates. Friday’s game marked the 10th start for Lynn in seven seasons with the Cardinals in which St. Louis scored 10 or more runs. Only two other pitchers received at least 10 runs of support in 10 or more starts for St. Louis since 2011, Lynn’s first season in the majors. Adam Wainwright has 15 starts of that kind for the Cardinals over that span, and Jake Westbrook had 10 such starts for St. Louis.

Correa extinguishes Angels’ late rally

The Angels scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to force extra innings, but the Astros scored in the top of the 10th inning to take the lead for good in Anaheim. Carlos Correa drove in the winning run for Houston, singling in Jose Altuve with two outs in the 10th inning. Since debuting for Houston in 2015, Correa has seven game-winning RBIs in extra innings. No other player has more than five game-winning RBIs in the 10th inning or later over the last three seasons.

Big numbers by sextet of Reds

The Reds pounded Matt Cain and four relievers for 13 runs in their blowout victory over the Giants. Six Reds players accounted for all of Cincinnati’s 16 hits, with four players notching three-hit games – Billy Hamilton, Eugenio Suarez, Scott Schebler, Jose Peraza – and two players tallying two hits each – Zack Cozart and Adam Duvall. The last time the Reds totaled at least 16 hits in a game with no more than six players hitting safely took place over 40 years ago. On July 26, 1976, which was also a home win for the Reds against the Giants, six players produced all 16 of Cincinnati’s hits. George Foster and Dan Driessen each tallied four hits, while four Reds players had two hits apiece – Pete Rose, Ken Griffey, Sr., Joe Morgan, and Cesar Geronimo.

Goldy valuable in first inning

Paul Goldschmidt enjoyed a big night at the plate, helping the Diamondbacks defeat the Rockies 6–3 at Coors Field. Goldschmidt drove in five runs on three hits, including a solo homer in the first inning and a three-run shot in the third. Since April 23, Goldschmidt is 7-for-9 (.778) when batting in the first inning with three home runs and six RBIs. Goldschmidt started the season 1-for-17 (.059) with no RBIs in the first inning; his lone hit over that span was a single against the Indians on April 9.