Elias Says: June 10, 2017

Cavaliers throw up big numbers to avoid sweep

The Cavaliers re-wrote a good section of the NBA Finals record book as they ended the Warriors’ 15-game playoff winning streak—the longest by any team in the history of the major North American pro sports leagues—with a resounding 137-116 victory in Cleveland. The Cavaliers ignited the evening with a 49-point first quarter, the most points scored in the first quarter in any playoff game in NBA history. And their total of 24 three-point field goals was the highest ever in a Finals game, and second-highest in any NBA playoff game to the Cavs’ total of 25 in a game on May 4 of last year.

LeBron James earned his ninth triple-double in a Finals game, surpassing Magic Johnson’s mark of eight. And it was the fourth time that James has scored 30 points while earning a triple-double in a Finals game, matching the combined total of games of that sort by all other players in NBA history! (Jerry West, James Worthy, Charles Barkley and Stephen Curry each had one such game.)

Kyrie Irving led Cleveland with 40 points on Friday night; James scored 31 and Kevin Love 23. ‘Twas the first Finals game in 48 years in which a player scored 40-plus points, a teammate scored 30-plus, and another teammate went for 20-plus. The last threesome to achieve such a performance: Jerry West (41), Elgin Baylor (32) and Johnny Egan (26) for the Lakers against the Celtics on April 25, 1969.

Santana’s 3rd shutout in 13 starts

Ervin Santana, for the third straight month, threw a complete-game shutout, limiting the Giants to four hits in the Twins’ 4-0 victory in San Francisco. Santana had thrown a one-hitter against the White Sox on April 15 and a two-hitter at Baltimore on May 23; no other major-leaguer has thrown as many as two shutouts this season. Santana’s total of 91 pitches against the Giants was the lowest in any of the 22 nine-inning complete games in the majors this season, and it was the lowest in a complete-game shutout since Jeff Samardzija used 88 pitches in a one-hit shutout for the White Sox at Detroit on Sept. 21, 2015.

It has been more than 20 years since the last time that a Twins pitcher threw as many as three shutouts in an entire season. Rich Robertson was the last three-timer, back in 1996. And to find the last Minnesota pitcher who shut out three opponents within his first 13 starts of a season—which is what Santana has done—you have to go back to 1971, when Bert Blyleven blanked three opponents in his first eight starts.

Rockies reach 40 wins; for Cubs, a less-than-award-winning 30-for-30

Charlie Blackmon’s two-run homer gave the Rockies a fifth-inning lead and six Colorado relievers combined to hold the Cubs to one run and one hit over six innings as the Rockies took a 5-3 decision at Wrigley Field. Blackmon assumed the team lead with 52 RBIs (one ahead of Mark Reynolds), the second-highest total in the majors (four behind Jake Lamb). Friday was the one-year anniversary of the only game in franchise history in which Rockies relievers combined to pitch at least six innings without allowing any hits; they did that in an 11-5 victory over the Pirates last June 9.

Friday’s win was the 40th of the season for Colorado, which reached the 40-victory mark ahead of every other National League team for the first time in the team’s 25-year history. And the Rockies did it while consigning the Cubs to their 30th loss in 60 games this season. Chicago became the 20th team to lose at least 30 of its first 60 decisions the year after winning the World Series (the Royals also stood at 30-30 last year). Not only did none of the previous 19 defending World Series winners that experienced such a stagnant start repeat as champions; none even qualified for the postseason!

Rays blast way to MLB home run lead

The Rays blasted five home runs in the game’s first five innings and took over the major leagues’ home run leadership with 97 in throttling the visiting Athletics, 13-4. It’s the latest calendar date on which the Rays have held the major-league home-run lead, breaking by one day their achievement of last season, when they last led the majors in homers through games of June 8. As befits the leading home-run hitting team in the majors, the Rays also lead the majors in games hitting three-or-more homers (16). And the Rays matched the most homers that they have ever hit in a game in St. Petersburg.

Mallex Smith, who returned from a brief trip to the minor leagues due to Kevin Kiermaier’s injury, hit one of the home runs and also stole three bases. Only one other player in Tampa Bay’s 20-year major-league history had a home run and three steals in the same game. Carl Crawford did that (and then some) on May 24, 2006 at Toronto, when he went 5-for-5 with a home run, four steals and five runs scored.

Maybin steals four bags as Angels run past Astros

Cameron Maybin, filling in for the injured Mike Trout, had three hits and a walk, stole four bases and scored four runs in the Angels’ 9-4 victory in Houston. Maybin became the first major-league player to produce as many as four steals in a game this season; Billy Hamilton was the only big-leaguer to have such a game last year. Maybin tied the Angels record for steals in a game, joining Devon White (1989), Luis Polonia (1992) and Chad Curtis (1993) in that category; and he became the first major-leaguer since 2006 and the first Angels player ever to finish a game with as many as four steals and as many as four runs scored. (Carl Crawford was the last major-leaguer to do that; he stole four bases and scored five runs for Tampa Bay in a game at Toronto in 2006.)

Dodgers trying out a new formula

Rich Hill pitched the first five innings and Kenta Maeda the last four in the Dodgers’ 7-2 victory over the visiting Reds. Dodgers fans may recall that the team followed a similar formula in a 7-3 win over the Cardinals on May 25, with Maeda starting and going five while Hyun-Jin Ryu earned the 12-out save. There have been three games like that in the major leagues this season—games in which the starting pitcher has gone five innings and earned a win, while a single reliever threw the last four innings to earn a save. That’s more games of that type than we saw in any of the last eight full seasons. The last season with more games of that type? The 2004 season, when there were seven.

Hicks belts a pair

Aaron Hicks smashed a tie-breaking homer in the sixth inning, then extended his team’s lead with a two-run shot in the seventh as the Yankees proceeded to take an 8-2 decision from the visiting Orioles. It was the second time this season that Hicks has homered twice in a game (he did it against the Rays on April 13), and the seventh time this season that a Yankees outfielder has enjoyed a multiple-homer game. (Brett Gardner has three such games and Aaron Judge two.) The Bombers lead the majors with 43 home runs by their outfielders.

Meanwhile, Yankees pitchers held the Orioles hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position, extending New York’s streak to 42 consecutive hitless at-bats by opponents in those situations. It’s the longest streak for any major-league pitching staff since Tampa Bay’s pitchers produced a streak of the same length in the 2010 season.

First-of-its-kind HR for Bradley lifts Sox over Tigers

Jackie Bradley, Jr. clobbered a massive home run well into the stands behind the Fenway Park bullpens, breaking a 3-3 tie in the last of the eighth and sending the Red Sox over the Tigers, 5-3. It was the 48th home run of Bradley’s major-league career, but his first that gave his team a lead in the eighth inning or later.

Kluber tops White Sox again

Corey Kluber has been bad news for the White Sox, and though they reached him for three runs over six innings on Friday night, Kluber left with a lead and earned credit for the Indians’ 7-3 win. Kluber is now 4-0 in four starts against the White Sox since the start of last season, fashioning an ERA of 1.59 over those games with 33 strikeouts in 28⅓ innings. Only four other active pitchers have made at least four starts against a particular opponent since the start of last season, winning them all: Clayton Kershaw vs. San Diego, Trevor Bauer vs. Houston, Chris Sale vs. Tampa Bay, and Derek Holland vs. Cleveland (each is 4-0 in four starts).

Swanson knocks in two, scores one in Braves’ 3-2 win

Dansby Swanson drove in a pair of runs with a two-out, sixth-inning double (following an intentional walk to Danny Santana, who entered the game batting .206), then scored the winning run in the last of the ninth after leading off that inning with a hustle double on a ground ball up the middle. Undoubtedly, he was the key performer in the Braves’ 3-2 win over the Mets.

Swanson’s early-season offensive troubles were startling: He was batting .150 over his first 100 at-bats of the season, through May 5. However, he made some progress during May, and now since the beginning of June, the former top pick in the draft is batting .407 (11 for 27), with two homers and eight RBIs in eight games.

Stanton, in two-hole, leading Marlins renaissance

Giancarlo Stanton’s mammoth home run leading off the third inning set the tone and the Marlins rolled to a 12-7 victory in Pittsburgh. Since Don Mattingly placed Stanton second in the batting order on May 23, Stanton has responded with a .361 batting average (22 for 61), five homers, 12 RBIs and 14 runs scored over 16 games. Meanwhile, while the Marlins possessed a 15-28 record at the time of the lineup switch, they have gone 12-5 since May 23 (including a victory in one game in which Stanton did not play).

Brewers show unusual strength up the middle

The Brewers displayed strength up the middle in their 8-6 victory over the Diamondbacks in Phoenix—but in this case, we’re talking about offensive strength. Milwaukee’s starters at the battery positions, the middle infield and in center field produced nine hits in 17 at-bats against Arizona; coming into the game, its players at those five positions had combined for a .231 batting average this season.

Rangers turn Thomas Wolfe on his ear: they do go home again

The Rangers returned to their ancestral home, with Andrew Cashner and Jonathan Lucroy pitching and hitting the visitors to a 5-2 win over the Nationals in Washington. Cashner earned his third win in his last five starts, and in each of those wins he lasted seven innings and allowed no more than two runs. Lucroy knocked in three runs, his highest total in a game since April 11.

The victory lifted the Rangers’ record to 8-2 in interleague games this season, and through Friday night’s games, American League teams hold a 66-47 advantage over the National League counterparts this season.