Elias Says: May 7, 2017

Durant and Curry pave the way for Warriors

Kevin Durant scored 38 points, his highest total in a playoff game this year, as the Warriors pulled away in the closing minutes to silence the Jazz, 102-91. Durant finished three points shy of his playoff career high of 41 points, which he achieved in four different games while with the Thunder. But he did set a playoff career high with 15 field goals.

Stephen Curry got hot down the stretch and finished with 23 points, despite missing 10 consecutive field-goal attempts in one stretch—the longest such run of consecutive misses that he has ever endured in a playoff game. Nevertheless, Curry did set an NBA record: the Warriors now own an all-time won-lost record of 37-11 in playoff games in which Curry scored 20 or more points. The resulting .771 winning percentage is now the best by any player in NBA history in his 20-point playoff games (minimum: 40 such games); the previous record-high percentage of .770 was established by Scottie Pippen (67 wins, 20 losses).

Capital Gains

The Capitals were less than 20 minutes away from elimination in Game 5 of their series against the Penguins, but Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin scored goals within a four minute and 58-second span of the third period which turned a 2–1 deficit into a 4–2 victory for Washington. This was only the second time in Capitals history that they won a playoff game in which they faced elimination and trailed in the third period. Their only other such win was also against the Penguins, in 2009. In Game 6 of that second-round series, Washington won 5–4 in overtime on a goal by David Steckel, having trailed by a 3–2 score early in the third period.

The goals by Backstrom and Ovechkin on Saturday marked the third time they’ve scored a goal in the same game in this year’s playoffs (Washington lost the first two games!) and the 13th time they’ve done so in their NHL postseason careers. The only other pairs of active NHL players who’ve scored goals in the same playoff game at least 13 times are Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry of the Ducks (14 times), and Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture of the Sharks (13 times).

Senators Win in OT

The Senators overcame a late deficit to beat the Rangers in Game 5, 5–4 in overtime, and take a three-games-to-two lead in the series. Former Ranger Derick Brassard scored the goal with 1:26 left to play in the third period which tied the score at 4–4, and Kyle Turris tallied a goal at the 6:28 mark in overtime to give Ottawa the victory. Turris’ overtime goal was the third of his playoff career, having previously scored in OT for the Senators in both the 2012 and 2013 playoffs (The 2012 goal was also against the Rangers). Turris’ three playoff overtime goals are the most by any player in Senators history; Daniel Alfredsson, with two, is the only other Ottawa player with more than one.

This was the second time in the series that the Senators won after trailing in the final two minutes of the third period. In Ottawa’s 6–5 victory in Game 2, Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored the tying goal with 1:02 remaining in the third period and the game-winning goal in double-overtime. This is the first time that any NHL team has recorded two such wins in one playoffs series since 2014, when the Blues (against Chicago) and the Avalanche (against Minnesota) both did so in the first round.

The Rangers have allowed a score-tying goal with their opponent’s goalie pulled three times in these playoffs (also to Montreal in Game 2, and to Ottawa in Game 1). That matches an NHL record for one postseason. The Coyotes allowed three score-tying goals with their opponent’s goalie pulled three times in 2012.

Ryan Zimmerman: Playing Baseball or a Video Game?

Ryan Zimmerman is having one of the best starts of a season, ever! Zimmerman went 2-for-4, including a two-run home run in the fourth that turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead and provided the game-winning RBI in the Nationals’ 6-2 win in Philadelphia. The Nats are now 21-9 in 30 games this season, and Zimmerman is batting .435 with 13 home runs, playing in all but one of Washington’s games. Zimmerman’s .435 batting average is the highest for any player with at least 13 home runs in his team’s first 30 games.

Only three other players have hit 13 home runs and batted .400 or higher in their teams’ first 30 games of a season: Mickey Mantle for the Yankees in 1956 (.400, 15 HR), Willie Mays for the Giants in 1964 (.407, 14 HR), and Josh Hamilton for the Rangers in 2012 (.406, 14 HR).

Clayton and Cody are the Story in San Diego

Clayton Kershaw allowed one run in 7⅓ innings to improve to 5-2 in the Dodgers’ 10-2 win in San Diego. Kershaw is now 109-44 (.712) with a 2.11 ERA in his last 200 starts, his lowest ERA over a 200-start span. The only other pitcher in the live-ball era (since 1920) to have a 200 start span with an ERA as low as Kershaw’s is Greg Maddux, whose lowest ERA over 200 games was 2.03, in 200 starts spanning 1992-1998.

Cody Bellinger put the cherry on top with a ninth-inning grand slam, his fifth major-league home run in just the 11th game of his big-league career. Bellinger became the fastest player in Dodgers history to reach five major-league home runs, beating out Matt Kemp (13 games) and Yasiel Puig (15 games).

Bellinger has 14 RBIs to go along with the five home runs. The only other player to debut since 1920—when RBIs became official—to have at least five homers and 14 RBIs in his first 11 games was the Royals’ Mark Quinn, who did it in September 1999 (5 HRs, 16 RBIs).

Young and Batting Cleanup

The Red Sox mixed up their lineup today, with 22-year old Andrew Benintendi batting in the cleanup spot for the first time in the majors, in his 63rd MLB game. He went 3-for-6, becoming the second Red Sox player age 22 or younger in the divisional era (since 1969) to have a three-hit game from the cleanup slot. Jim Rice had four such games in 1975.

Wondering about Ted Williams? As a rookie in 1939, he first batted in the cleanup spot in his eighth game, on May 3. (Player-manager Joe Cronin batted himself fourth for nearly all of 1938 and early in 1939, but he had the flu on May 3 and didn’t play.) But after that one game, The Kid didn’t bat fourth again until he took over the spot with regularity starting on June 27, in his 55th game. By the end of his rookie season, he moved up to third in the Red Sox lineup.

Simmons becoming a practiced walkoff hero

Andrelton Simmons produced a high infield chopper that sent Kole Calhoun home from third with the game-winning run in the last of the 10th inning as the Angels nipped the Astros, 2-1. It was the fifth walkoff RBI that Simmons has delivered in his major-league career, with the first coming back on June 4, 2013, with the Braves. From that day forward, only one major-league player has amassed more walkoff RBIs than has Simmons: Josh Donaldson has nine.

A’s rally to walkoff win against K-Rod

The Athletics, with two out and none on in the bottom of the ninth, rallied for a pair of runs sent home on a clutch hit by Adam Rosales to defeat the Tigers, 6-5. Earlier, Yonder Alonso reached Jordan Zimmermann for a couple of home runs, but Oakland never took the lead until Matt Joyce slid home with the deciding run on the game-winning blow by Rosales. The A’s had lost the last 28 games in which they had trailed during or after the seventh inning, which had been the longest current streak of that kind in the majors. The winning hit came off Francisco Rodriguez, marking the 20th time in his big-league career (and the second time this season) that K-Rod has been on the mound for his team’s walkoff loss (seven times with the Angels, six with the Mets, four with the Brewers, and three with the Tigers). That ties Fernando Rodney for the highest such total by any active major-league pitcher.

Hamilton: The Prodigy of Reds College

Billy Hamilton went 3-for-6 with a double, triple, stolen base and two runs scored in the Reds 14-2 win vs. the Giants. On Friday, Hamilton went 3-for-4 with a triple, two steals and four runs. So let’s tally that: over the last two games, scrappy Hamilton is 6-for-10 with six runs, a double, two triples, and three steals. The last two Reds players with six runs and three steals over two games: Joe Morgan in 1976 and Miller Huggins in 1905.

The Reds have now won their last four games, including their last two against the Giants, 13-3 and 14-2. The Reds had not won two consecutive games by 10-run margins since May 8-9, 1976, vs. the Cubs at Wrigley Field: 14-4 and 14-2. Pete Rose scored five runs over those two games and George Foster and Ken Griffey Sr. each scored four (all three players had at least one home run as well). Before the 1976 instance, the Reds had not won back-to-back games by 10-run margins since June 3 and 4 of 1911!

The Reynolds Pamphlet (Have You Read this Stuff?)

Mark Reynolds hit a first-inning home run to put the Rockies up 4-0 in their 9-1 win versus the Diamondbacks. It was Reynolds’s 10th home run of the season in his 30th game; he is now only four shy of his 2016 total—14 homers in 118 games. Reynolds last had a stretch of 10 home runs in 30 games in a season in April/May 2013. Six of Reynolds’s home runs have come over the past 15 days (since April 22). Reynolds had not hit six home runs over a 15-day span since September 2012 with the Orioles. Since that stretch Reynolds has changed uniforms five times, suiting up for the Indians, Yankees, Brewers, Cardinals, and Rockies!

Santana and Lindor Bury Royals With Back-to-Backers in Ninth

Locked in a 1-1 pitching duel with two outs in the top of the ninth inning, Carlos Santana smashed a homer off Kelvin Herrera, and Francisco Lindor followed with one of his own. The Indians are the first team this season to hit back-to-back homers in the final inning, with one of them being a game-winning homer.

Jason Vargas got a tough luck no-decision, throwing six scoreless innings and lowering his ERA to 1.19 in six starts to go along with a 4-1 record. Vargas has the third-lowest ERA for a Royals pitcher in his first six starts of a season, after Zack Greinke in 2009 (6-0, 0.40) and Bruce Chen in 2013 (2-0, 0.93).

Mariners Cruz to 8-2 Win

Nelson Cruz continued to rake in the Mariners’ 8-2 win against the Rangers, extending his hitting streak to 15 and notching another RBI, his 20th over the 15-game hitting streak. Only two other Mariners have driven in 20 runs over 15 games, hitting safely in each: Alex Rodriguez in 1996 (20 RBIs), and Ken Griffey Jr. in 1999 (21 RBIs).

Machado and Bundy Fuel Orioles Win over White Sox

Manny Machado singled and scored in a three-run first-inning rally for the Orioles and hit a solo home run in the next inning to help get the Orioles out to a 4-0 lead in their 6-5 win vs. the White Sox. Machado now has five home runs in his last nine games, since April 28, tying a high for him over a nine-game span in a single season.

Dylan Bundy got the win to improve to 5-1 on the season to go along with a 2.17 ERA in seven starts. Since the Orioles moved to hitter-friendly Camden Yards in 1992, only two other O’s pitchers have won at least five of their first seven starts of a season with an ERA of 2.25 or better: Jimmy Key in 1997 (6-0, 1.93) and Josh Towers in 2001 (5-1, 1.64).

Behind Blue Jay Eyes

The Blue Jays got out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning on an Ezequiel Carrera solo home run, but ended up losing 6-1 in Tampa. The Jays fell to 10-20, and they have held a lead in 12 of those 20 losses. No team has had 12 losses in games that they led within their first 30 games of a season since the 2010 Orioles, who also had 12 blown losses in a 9-21 start. The Jays are the fifth playoff team to start the next season 10-20 or worse, along with the 1915 Philadelphia Athletics (10-20), 1972 Giants (9-21), 1981 Royals (9-21), and 1996 Red Sox (10-20).

Mets: seven becomes eleven

The Mets defeated the Marlins, 11-3, on a rainy night in New York, in a game in which Miami contributed three errors, two hit batsmen, a wild pitch, a passed ball and five unearned runs to the home team’s cause. All told, the Mets produced only seven hits, tying the second-lowest hits total that the Mets have ever produced in a game in which they generated a double-digit runs total. There have been three other times that they scored 10-or-more runs on exactly seven hits, with all three games coming at Montreal between 1974 and 1987. The all-time team record was set back in the Mets’ inaugural season. Somehow, on June 29, 1962, the Amazins earned a 10-4 victory at Dodger Stadium in which they produced a total of just four hits. The 16 walks issued by Dodgers pitchers helped, especially the four first-inning walks that forced in the Mets’ first four runs.

Hicks Gets in His Licks at Wrigley

Aaron Hicks went 4-for-5 in the Yankees’ second straight win at Wrigley Field, the night after he went 3-for-5 in his first major-league game there. Hicks’s seven hits in his first two games at Wrigley Field are tied for the second-most for a player in his first two games at Wrigley Field, behind the Boston Braves’ Nanny Fernandez in 1942 (eight hits). The Reds’ Woody Williams also had seven hits in his first two Wrigley games in 1943, along with the Mets’ Dick Smith in 1964.

Josh Harrison is the Pirates’ “Mr. Extras”

Josh Harrison won the game for the Pirates in the 10th inning with a walk-off single, scoring Gift Ngoepe and earning the Pirates a 2-1 win over the Brewers. Harrison is now 20-for-52 (.385) batting in extra innings in his career, the fifth-highest extra-inning batting average for active players with at least 50 extra-inning at bats, below Hanley Ramirez (.433), Buster Posey (.426), Brandon Crawford (.391), and Nick Markakis (.388).

Carpenter helps Leake

Matt Carpenter went 2-for-4 with a home run in the Cardinals’ 5-3 win in Atlanta. Carpenter has hit five home runs in 90 at-bats against the Braves (one HR per 18 AB), his highest home run rate against any team against whom he has at least 80 at-bats.

Mike Leake allowed three runs in seven innings in the win, improving to 4-1 in six starts; his ERA now stands at 1.79. Leake is the first Cardinals pitcher since 2014 to win four or more of his first six starts of a season with an ERA below 2.00. Adam Wainwright started 2014 5-1 with a 1.20 ERA.