Elias Says: May 20, 2017

Cavaliers crush Celtics in Game 2

The Cavaliers trounced the Celtics, 130–86, in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals and are heading home to Cleveland with a two-games-to-none lead in the series. The 44-point margin of victory for Cleveland tied the fourth-largest point differential for a road team in a playoff game. No team had ever won a playoff game over the Celtics in Boston by more than 30 points, much less 40 points.

The Cavs also became the first team in NBA playoff history to end the first half of a game with a lead of more than 40 points. The Pistons held the previous record for largest halftime lead in a playoff game, having outscored the Bullets by 40 points in the first two quarters of Game 2 of their opening-round matchup in 1987.

LeBron earns a breather after another brilliant performance

LeBron James was the star of the show for the Cavaliers, racking up a team-high 30 points and seven assists despite sitting out the fourth quarter. James has scored 30 or more points while making at least half of his field-goal attempts in each of his last eight games. The only other player in NBA history with a streak of that length in the playoffs was Lew Alcindor, who compiled 30 points and shot 50 percent or better from the floor in the Bucks’ first nine games of the 1970 playoffs. Those nine contests were the first playoff games of Alcindor’s NBA career (Alcindor changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar the following year).

Back to James, who finished his night with a plus/minus rating of plus-46, meaning the Cavaliers outscored the Celtics by 46 points with James on the court. That’s tied with Jimmy Butler for the highest plus/minus rating in a playoff game over the last 20 years. Butler posted a plus-46 rating in the Bulls’ 54-point series-clinching victory over the Bucks in 2015. James had never before produced a plus/minus rating of plus-40 or better in the regular season or playoffs.

Penguins knot series thanks to Crosby

Sidney Crosby, who recorded only one point in the first three games of the Eastern Conference Final, scored one goal and assisted on another to lead the Penguins to a series-tying 3–2 victory at Ottawa in Game 4. Crosby has racked up 53 multiple-point games in the Stanley Cup playoffs during his NHL career and nearly one-quarter of those multi-point performances (13) have come against the Senators. (His second-highest total is nine versus the Flyers.) The only other active NHL player with as many multiple-point games against one team in postseason play as Crosby has versus Ottawa is Jaromir Jagr with 15 against Washington (though the last one was in 2001).

Guentzel assists Pittsburgh’s series-tying win

Jake Guentzel assisted on two goals for the Penguins in their series-tying 3–2 win over the Senators. It was the first multiple-assist game for Guentzel in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and only the third time that a Penguins rookie has ever tallied two assists in a Conference Final or Stanley Cup Final game. Jaromir Jagr was a rookie when he notched two assists for Pittsburgh in Game 1 of the 1991 Stanley Cup Final versus the North Stars, as was Tyler Kennedy when he notched two assists against the Flyers in Game 4 of the 2008 Eastern Conference Final. Before Guentzel, the last rookie on any NHL team to register two assists in a Conference Final or Cup Final game was the Rangers’ Kevin Hayes versus Tampa Bay in Game 4 of the 2015 Eastern Conference Final.

Plenty of wins to go around for Rangers

The Rangers extended their winning streak to 10 games with a 5–3 victory over the Tigers at Comerica Park. All 10 of the Rangers’ wins during their streak have been earned by a different pitcher, with Nick Martinez joining that list on Friday. No other major-league team has ever compiled a winning streak of 10 or more games within a single season, with each win going to a different pitcher.

Gallo clears the fence again

Joey Gallo capped the scoring for the Rangers with a two-run homer in the sixth inning. That was the 20th major-league home run for Gallo, who has 49 total hits in 96 games with the Rangers. Gallo is the second player in major-league history to compile 20 or more home runs within his first 50 major-league hits. Mark McGwire totaled 22 home runs through his first 50 hits in 1986–87.

Castillo blasts a pair in Baltimore

Welington Castillo was the hero for the Orioles on Friday, hitting a game-tying home run in the bottom of the sixth inning and a walkoff two-run blow in the 10th to close Baltimore’s 5–3 win over the Blue Jays. Castillo is the second Orioles player to produce a game-tying home run and game-ending homer in the sixth inning or later of a game since 1954 when the St. Louis Browns franchise relocated to Baltimore. On May 28, 1987, Mike Young hit a game-tying solo homer in the bottom of the 10th inning and a walkoff two-run bomb his next time up to cap a 12-inning win over the Angels.

Twins come back late against Royals

The Twins improved to 6–0 against the Royals this season after walking off with a victory over Kansas City on Friday. Jorge Polanco’s sacrifice fly drove in the winning run for the Twins in the 10th inning after Kennys Vargas hit a game-tying two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to force extras. Entering Friday, the Twins had lost their last 138 games in which they trailed in the ninth inning or later, which was by far the longest such active losing streak in the majors. The Braves now own the longest active losing streak of that kind, having lost their last 58 games in which they trailed in the ninth inning or later.

Bauer continues to torture Astros

A near-perfect outing by the Indians bullpen locked up another win for Trevor Bauer over the Astros at Minute Maid Park. After Boone Logan issued a walk to the only batter he faced, Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen retired Houston’s next 10 batters to preserve the win for Bauer, who improved his lifetime record versus the Astros to 7–0 in seven starts against them. The last pitcher before Bauer to win each of his first seven starts versus a particular opponent was Derek Lowe, who earned a win in each of his first 10 starts against the Pirates from 2003 to 2010. Bauer is the first pitcher to win his first seven starts versus the Astros.

Brewers enjoy another productive first inning at Wrigley

Jett Bandy singled home a pair of runs in the top of the first inning at Wrigley Field, helping the Brewers take an early lead in their 6–3 victory over the Cubs. Milwaukee entered the day with a run differential of plus-31 in the first inning, which was the largest run differential for any team in any inning this season. The Brewers’ current plus-33 rating in the opening frame would be their best first-inning differential over a full season in franchise history.

The Brewers also scored multiple first-inning runs in each of their first three games at Wrigley Field this season (April 17–19). Prior to Milwaukee, no other team in the 100+ year history of Wrigley Field scored multiple first-inning runs in four or more consecutive games at the “Friendly Confines” within a single season, other than the Cubs of course. (Three other franchises compiled streaks of four or more games at Wrigley that spanned multiple seasons, most recently the Dodgers in 1978–79.)

Another walkoff homer for A’s

Mark Canha greeted Heath Hembree in the bottom of the 10th inning with a solo homer, sending the A’s home with a 3–2 victory over the Red Sox. Canha’s walkoff home run – the first of his major-league career – was the third game-ending homer for the A’s this season, and all three have occurred in the last two weeks (Ryon Healy on May 7, Jed Lowrie on May 8, Canha on Friday). The only other calendar month in which Oakland hit as many as three walkoff home runs was April 1978. The A’s had three that month as well – two by Gary Alexander and one by Jeff Newman.

Big inning for Amarista (and Rockies too)

All eight position players in the Rockies’ starting lineup crossed the plate in the sixth inning of Colorado’s 12–6 victory over the Reds at Cincinnati. Alexi Amarista drove home half of the Rockies’ eight runs in the inning with a three-run homer in his first at-bat of the sixth inning and a RBI-single his next time up. Only two other Rockies players drove home four or more runs in an inning without the benefit of a grand slam. Carlos Gonzalez and Justin Morneau both produced five RBIs in an inning for Colorado without a bases-loaded homer. Gonzalez achieved that feat against the Mets in April 2012, and Morneau did so versus the Dodgers in September 2014. Both players produced their big innings in the thin air of Coors Field.

Mariners bats silenced by Quintana and Robertson

Jose Quintana and David Robertson held the Mariners to one hit in the White Sox’ 10-inning victory over the Mariners at Safeco Field. Danny Valencia, who tripled and scored Seattle’s lone run in the second inning, represented the only tally in the Mariners’ hit column. The only other time that the White Sox held their opponent to one hit or fewer in an extra-innings game occurred over 110 years ago. On Sep. 6, 1903, Doc White pitched a complete-game shutout for Chicago, allowing one hit over 10 scoreless innings to lead the White Sox to a 1–0 victory over the Cleveland Bronchos (who are now called the Indians). White was best known for throwing five consecutive shutouts for Chicago towards the end of the 1904 season. His 45 consecutive scoreless innings still represents the longest scoreless-innings streak for any pitcher in White Sox history.

Lamb chops Padres down to size

It was an easy night for the Diamondbacks, who cruised to an easy 10–1 victory over the Padres in San Diego after scoring eight runs in the top of the first inning. Arizona’s first-inning run total matched a franchise record, which the D-Backs first accomplished in a home game against the Padres in 2014. The Diamondbacks also became the first team to plate as many as eight runs in the first inning of a game at Petco Park.

Jake Lamb homered twice for the Diamondbacks on Friday, totaling a career-high five RBIs. Those five RBIs doubled Lamb’s career RBIs total at Petco Park – entering Friday, Lamb had accumulated just five RBIs in 22 games at San Diego.

deGrom aces another A.L. opponent

Jacob deGrom threw seven scoreless innings at Citi Field on Friday to lead the Mets to a 3–0 victory over the Angels. deGrom has allowed two or fewer runs in 10 of his 11 interleague starts, with a six-run outing at Yankee Stadium in 2015 standing out as the only blemish. deGrom’s 1.95 lifetime ERA in interleague games is the third-lowest for any pitcher with at least 10 starts against teams outside of their league. Garrett Richards has a 1.42 ERA in 18 games (11 starts) for the Angels versus National League teams, and Matt Harvey has compiled a 1.64 ERA in 11 starts against the American League.

Three runs are finally enough for Mets

The Mets’ victory marked the first time this season that they won a game despite scoring no more than three runs. Every other major-league team had registered a win of that kind this season except the Mets, who were 0–12 in such games entering Friday.

Hellickson settles down in a hurry

After allowing two runs in the first inning, Jeremy Hellickson stifled the Pirates over the next five innings, giving the Phillies time to earn a comeback win in Pittsburgh. Hellickson looked to be in trouble early after allowing hits to the Pirates’ first two batters, but he quickly recovered, completing six innings without allowing another hit. It had been over five years since the last time a Phillies starting pitcher allowed hits to the first two batters he faced and went on to complete at least six innings without surrendering another hit. That particular outing also occurred at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. In Philadelphia’s 2012 season opener, Roy Halladay threw eight scoreless innings to earn the win for the Phillies, and the only two hits he allowed on the day were a pair of first-inning singles by the Pirates’ first two batters.

Weeks is strong off the bench for Rays

Rickie Weeks pinch-hit for the Rays in the seventh inning and rapped a go-ahead two-run double in the Rays’ 5-4 victory over the Yankees. The two-bagger snapped Weeks’s streak of 16 hitless at-bats in a pinch-hitting role, a streak that started last August. It also marked the third time that Weeks produced a go-ahead RBI as a pinch hitter – he had two RBIs of that kind for the Brewers – though none of those go-ahead pinch-hit RBIs were game-winners. Coincidentally, in all three of those games the opposing team tied the score in the half inning following Weeks’ go-ahead hit, and in all three of those games Weeks’s team retook the lead for good in its next time up to bat.