Elias Says: May 1, 2017

Celtics win handily after walking out of the gate

The Celtics spotted the Wizards to a 16–0 lead before pushing the “Start” button and rolling to a 123–111 victory over Washington in Game 1 of their second-round series. Over the last 10 seasons, there have been nearly 13,000 NBA games, including 804 in the playoffs. There was only one other in which a team conceded the game’s first 16 points but rallied to a win. Boston opened a 17–0 lead at Milwaukee on December 1, 2012, but the Bucks won the game, 91–88.

Horford stars in Celtics’ win

Al Horford fell one rebound short of a triple-double in the Celtics’ win, scoring 21 points and earning 10 assists. He was the first center with at least 20 points and 10 assists in a playoff game in more than two decades—since Hakeem Olajuwon did it for Houston in a second-round win over Phoenix in 1995.

Jazz cap close series with big road win

The Jazz advanced to the second round of the NBA playoffs with a 104–91 victory over the Clippers at Staples Center. Utah was only the seventh team in NBA history to win a Game 7 on the road by more than 10 points. (Four of the first six came against the Celtics at Boston.) Ironically, each of the first six games of the Jazz-Clippers series was decided by a single-digit margin.

Hack-a-Shaq against Jordan helps sink Clippers

Two of Utah’s bigs, Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, fouled out of their Game 7 win, as the Jazz continued to send DeAndre Jordan to the foul line and Jordan continued to miss free throws. DAJ missed nine of 15 foul shots on Sunday, and 34 of 56 in the series, as he shot 39 percent from the line.

This was the fourth playoff series in which Jordan missed at least 30 foul shots. Maybe he can take consolation from the fact that Shaquille O’Neal did that 14 times and Wilt Chamberlain 13 times. Then again, no one else besides Shaq, Wilt, and Jordan has done it more than twice.

Nats give Ross historic support

Joe Ross’ ERA for the season soared to 7.47 but he remained undefeated (1–0) as the Nationals routed the Mets, 23–5. (Ross pitched 4.0 innings and did not earn a decision on Sunday.) The Nats won his two previous starts by scores of 14–4 and 15–12. That makes Ross the first pitcher whose team scored at least 14 runs in three consecutive starts since Monte Pearson in 1936. We’ll save you the trouble; that’s 81 years ago. Joe DiMaggio’s rookie season.

But there’s more. Only three other pitchers in major-league history were the beneficiaries of at least 14 runs of support in each of their first three pitching starts of a season, and the others all did it in the 1800s: Larry Twitchell of Detroit in 1887, Willie McGill of Cleveland in 1890, and Varney Anderson of Washington in 1895. Twitchell played 53 games as an outfielder that season, but posted an 11–1 record in 15 appearances on the mound.

Rendon drives in 10 runs on a perfect day

Did we just bury the lead? As noted, Washington’s batting support for Joe Ross this season has been almost unprecedented. But so was Anthony Rendon’s performance on Sunday, going 6-for-6 with three home runs and 10 RBIs in the Nationals’ victory. Only one other player drove in at least 10 runs in a so-called “perfect day at the plate”—that is, every at-bat resulting in a hit. Jim Bottomley of the Cardinals went 6-for-6 with two homers and 12 RBIs at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn in 1924. Bottomley’s record of 12 RBIs in one game was equaled only once—by Mark Whiten in 1993—and never surpassed.

A disappointing ending to Judge’s historic month

On his final at-bat of the first month of his rookie season, Aaron Judge struck out with the bases loaded to end the bottom of the 10th. An inning later, the Yankees had been beaten, 7–4, by the Orioles. But Judge’s April was historic by many measures. As we reported on Saturday, his 10th home run of the season tied the major-league record for homers by a rookie in the month of April. That mark was set by Jose Abreu in 2014 and tied by Trevor Story last season.

Most impressive has been Judge’s ability to reach base. He is only the 10th rookie in major-league history with at least 10 home runs, 10 walks, and a .300 batting average in one calendar month. Any calendar month, that is, not only April. The only other rookies to do that in the last four decades were Mike Trout (July 2012) and Judge’s teammate Gary Sanchez last August.

Sano makes the most of a quick trip to KC

Miguel Sano, who drove in four runs in the series opener on Friday, went 3-for-5 with five RBIs in the second and final game of the series, as the Twins extended the Royals’ losing streak to nine games with a 7–5 win on Sunday. Admittedly, two-game series aren’t common. (Saturday’s scheduled game at Kansas City was rained out.) But even on a day when Anthony Rendon drove in 10 runs in one game, Sano’s nine RBIs over in the Twins-Royals series merits mention. It was the highest total in a two-game set since Scott Rolen drove in nine runs for the Cardinals against the Giants in September 2006.

Bour’s game was noteworthy for several reasons (but not for being a triple short of a cycle)

Justin Bour went 4-for-5 and drove in six runs in the Marlins’ 10–3 win over the Pirates. Bour set personal single-game highs in RBIs and hits, and he tied the record for RBIs in one game at Marlins Park, where Miami has played its home games since 2012. That last fact wasn’t mentioned in the wire-service game story, but the fact that Bour needed only a triple to hit the Marlins’ first cycle was there. Of course it was. As we have noted in the past, “a triple short of a cycle” has become the default description of a game with a single, double, and home run.

Let’s review the facts one more time. Over the past 10 seasons (2007–16), there were 2450 instances of a player with a single, double, and homer but no triple in a game. In other words, more than one per game day. During that same period, when a player fell one hit short of a cycle, the triple was the missing hit three-quarters of the time. So “a triple short of a cycle” isn’t really a story, is it? It’s like a bowler coming one pin short of converting a 7–10 split.

Keuchel’s great April? You’ve seen it before.

Dallas Keuchel improved to 5–0 and lowered his ERA to 1.21, allowing one run in 7.2 innings in the Astros’ 7–2 win over the Athletics. Prior to 2000, only two pitchers went 5–0 or better in April with an ERA as low as Keuchel’s: Walter Johnson in 1913 and Fernando Valenzuela in 1981. But in this century, 10 pitchers have done it, including five in the last five seasons: Clay Buchholz and Matt Moore in 2013, Jake Arrieta and Jordan Zimmermann last season, and Keuchel.

Shades of Fred Lynn in Boston

Andrew Benintendi went 2-for-4 on Sunday, including a single during the Red Sox’ game-winning eighth-inning rally in a 6-2 victory over the Cubs. Benintendi finished the month of April with 30 hits and 14 RBIs. Both are team-leading totals. The last rookie to lead Boston in both hits and RBIs in the month of April was Fred Lynn in 1975, the season in which Lynn was named not only the AL Rookie of the Year but also the league’s MVP.

Rockies and D-backs play 12 innings without scoring … really!

The Rockies and Diamondbacks play at two of baseball’s most hitter-friendly stadiums. Since 2010, Coors Field has increased scoring by 41 percent, an MLB high, and Chase Field has produced a 12 percent increase in scoring (MLB’s fourth-highest mark). So it should come as no surprise that Sunday’s meeting, in which Daniel Descalso gave Arizona a 2–0 win with a walkoff homer in the 13th inning, was the first of its kind. In 337 previous games between Colorado and Arizona, the teams had never reached the ninth inning without a run being scored.

Giants blow another ninth-inning lead

It happened again. The Giants took a two-run lead to the ninth inning, but the Padres tied it in the ninth and won it on Wil Myers’ three-run homer in the 12th. Over the last two seasons, San Francisco leads the majors with 10 losses in games in which it led at the end of the eighth inning.

Freeman’s solo shot isn’t enough

The Brewers’ 4–3 win over the Braves was a tale of two sixth-inning home runs. Freddie Freeman gave the Braves a 2–1 lead with a solo shot in the top of the inning; but Domingo Santana, whose first home run of the game tied the score in the fifth inning, gave Milwaukee a two-run lead with a three-run shot in the bottom of the sixth.

Freeman hit nine home runs during April, but seven were solo shots. He is the first player in major-league history to hit as many as nine homers in April but drive in fewer than 15 runs for the month. Freeman has 14 RBIs.

A rare Reds comeback in St. Louis

The Reds erased a 4–0 deficit after five innings to post a 5–4 win at Busch Stadium. It was the first time in 20 seasons that Cincinnati won a game at St. Louis in which the Cardinals led by as many as four runs in the sixth inning or later. The Reds’ last such win at St. Louis, in September 1997, featured a pinch-hit appearance by Pete Rose Jr., who struck out in the next-to-last of his 11 games in the majors.

Tigers give Gonzalez the “Hamels treatment”

The Tigers pounded White Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez for 14 hits over six innings in a 7–3 win. It was the fourth time in the last six seasons that Detroit had at least 14 hits against the opposing starter, including the most recent instance, against Cole Hamels last August. No other team has had more than one such game during that time (2012–17).

Defending AL champs off to a fast start

The Indians defeated the Mariners, 12–4, to finish the month of April with a 14–10 record. Last season, en route to an American League title, Cleveland had a losing record in April (10–11). In fact, the Indians had losing records in April in each of their past four seasons (2013–16).

Jays’ pen saves the day

Credit Toronto’s bullpen for the Blue Jays’ 3–1 victory on Sunday. Starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez had to leave the game after the first inning due to a split fingernail. But six Jays relievers allowed only run on four hits the rest of the way. It was only the second time in the last 30 seasons that Toronto won a game in which its starting pitcher failed to record more than three outs but its bullpen allowed no more than one run. The other was against the Phillies in 2012, with Drew Hutchison forced to leave the game due to an elbow injury after facing only three batters.

Nashville’s backliners continue to score

Defenseman Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi each scored a goal for the Predators as they took the lead in their series against the Blues with a 3–1 victory in Game 3. Nashville’s defensemen have scored seven goals in the 2017 playoffs, the highest total of goals from backliners for any team. (The Oilers and Rangers are tied for second with five each.) The Predators led the NHL in goals by defensemen in each of three consecutive seasons from 2013–14 through 2015–16, and they finished second to the Sharks in 2016–17 (49 to 45).

Ellis’ goal gave Nashville a 1–0 lead in the first period and extended his point streak to six games. That matches the longest point streak that any NHL defenseman has produced in any of the last seven playoff years. The only NHL defensemen besides Ellis with six-game playoff point streaks since 2011 were P.K. Subban in 2014 (then with Montreal, now with Nashville) and John Carlson for the Capitals in 2016.

They can’t stop Jake

Jakob Silfverberg scored two goals for the Ducks in their first win in their series against the Oilers, a 6–3 victory in Game 3 at Edmonton. Silfverberg scored twice in Anaheim’s four-game sweep of the Flames in the first round of this year’s playoffs and he has scored four goals in the first three games versus Edmonton, with at least one goal in each game. Silfverberg has tied the Ducks record for most goals by a player in the team’s first seven games of a playoff year (6), a mark set by Teemu Selanne in 2011 and previously equaled by Corey Perry in 2015.