Elias Says: May 26, 2017

LeBron breaks Jordan’s record, leads Cavs to Finals

LeBron James scored a game-high 35 points and broke Michael Jordan’s record for career points in the NBA playoffs as he led the Cavaliers to a 135-102 win in Boston that vaulted James to victory in the Eastern Conference Finals for a seventh consecutive year (four with Miami, and the last three with Cleveland). James has now scored 5995 points in his 212 playoff games; Jordan scored 5987 points in 179 playoff games. Jordan had held the record since May 31, 1998, when he surpassed the previous record of 5762 points by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 237 playoff games. Jordan held the record for six days shy of 19 years, the longest tenure for any player holding that record in the 71-year history of the NBA.

It was the 13th consecutive win for Cleveland in a game in which it could close out a playoff series, breaking an NBA record previously held by the Lakers (2000-2004). Equally as impressive is that the Cavaliers are now 15-2 in close-out games on the road since LeBron’s first foray into the playoffs in 2006.

The 33-point margin of victory marked the second time in the series that the Cavaliers had won a game in Boston by 30-or-more points; they won Game Two by the score of 130-86. Cleveland became the first team in NBA history to win two road games by a 30-plus-point margin in the same playoff series.

The Celtics never possessed a lead at any time in any of the three games played in Boston in the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals, marking the first time in NBA history that a team has failed to hold a lead at any point of three different home games in the same playoff series.

Kunitz’s goal puts Penguins in Cup Final

Chris Kunitz’s second goal of the game was the double-overtime winner for the Penguins over the Senators in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Final. This was the fourth time in NHL history that a team earned a berth in the Stanley Cup Final with a Game Seven multiple-overtime win. The other teams to qualify that way were the Bruins in 1939 (Mel Hill’s triple-OT goal beat the Rangers), the Blues in 1968 (Ron Schock scored in the second OT to beat the North Stars) and the Rangers in 1994 (with Stephane Matteau scoring the winner against the Devils in double-OT).

At age 37, Kunitz is the oldest NHL player ever to score an overtime goal in the seventh game of a playoff series. He broke the mark set by Scott Walker, who was 35 years old when he scored the OT winner for Carolina in Game Seven of a second-round series against the Bruins in 2009.

Kunitz is the fourth player in NHL history to score two goals in the seventh game of a playoff series, including a multiple-overtime goal. The three other players to do that were Detroit’s Pete Babando in the 1950 Stanley Cup Final (against the Rangers), Vancouver’s Pavel Bure in 1994 (at Calgary) and New Jersey’s Adam Henrique in 2012 (at Florida).

The Penguins became the fifth team in NHL history to win a Game Seven to advance into the Stanley Cup Final in back-to-back seasons. The other teams that did that were the Red Wings in 1949 and 1950, Canadiens in 1952 and 1953, Flyers in 1974 and 1975, and Stars in 1999 and 2000.

Matt Murray, who turned 23 years old on Thursday, was only the third goaltender in NHL history to win a Game Seven played on his birthday. The others were Edmonton’s Curtis Joseph in 1997 at Dallas in overtime (on his 30th birthday) and Vancouver’s Dan Cloutier in 2003 against St. Louis (on his 27th birthday).

MLB records tied: Kimbrel 4 SO in 9th, Red Sox pitchers 20 in game

Craig Kimbrel was credited with four strikeouts in the ninth inning on Thursday night, tying a major-league record and boosting the total of strikeouts by Red Sox pitchers to 20 in their victory over the Rangers, tying the major-league record for strikeouts by a team in a nine-inning game.

Nomar Mazara, first up for Texas in the ninth, swung and missed at the third strike, as the ball apparently hit his left foot. Although he would have been automatically out had that been the call, he ran to first base and was permitted to remain there, as the umpires apparently did not rule that the ball had hit him, so that when it bounced toward the third-base dugout, it was still live. No sweat for Kimbrel, he just struck out the next three batters to join A. J. Burnett, Zack Greinke and Chuck Finley as the only major-league pitchers who have struck out more than three batters in an inning more than once. (Kimbrel also did it with Atlanta in 2012; Finley had three such innings in his career.)

Red Sox pitchers have now accounted for three of the six instances in which a team accumulated 20 strikeouts in a nine-inning game. Roger Clemens accounted for the two other cases personally, against the Mariners in 1986 and at Detroit in 1996.

Bogaerts keeps his streak intact and flourishes

Xander Bogaerts singled and scored the game’s first run in the first inning, then belted a two-run homer on his next trip to the plate, and the Red Sox went on to conquer the Rangers, 6-2. Bogaerts went 2-for-4 during the game, taking the first pitch in each of those plate appearances, and lengthening to 58 his streak of consecutive plate appearances in which he has taken the first pitch. He is batting .333 (17 for 51) during that streak, with seven walks and 14 strikeouts.

Marisnick homer leads to the 50,000th save

Jake Marisnick’s eighth-inning homer, his team’s fourth of the game, broke a 6-6 tie and Ken Giles was credited with a milestone save as the Astros overcame a 3-0 deficit to defeat the Tigers, 7-6 in a wild game in Houston. Marisnick had entered the game as a pinch-runner in the sixth inning. That happens about once a year in the majors—a player enters a game as a pinch-runner and then stays in the game and hits a home run to put his team ahead to stay. Drew Stubbs did it last year, David Lough in 2015, Jordan Danks in 2013, and Alexi Amarista and Brandon Hicks in 2012.

Giles pitched a scoreless ninth to secure his 13th save of the season, and the 50,000th save in the majors since 1969, the year that saves became an official part of major-league statistics.

Montgomery’s lengthy save

Mike Montgomery, whose only postseason save came when he faced and retired a single batter, earned his first regular-season save by throwing four scoreless innings in the Cubs’ 5-1 victory over the Giants. Oh, did we mention? That the one postseason save that Montgomery earned occurred in Game Seven of last fall’s World Series, when he induced Cleveland’s Michael Martinez to ground out, thereby giving the Cubs their first World Series title in 108 years.

Of course, you don’t see many 12-out saves in baseball. Montgomery’s was the first in the majors this season, and there had been a total of only 13 over the previous seven regular seasons. And many of those were blowout games in which the team with the lead was coasting. But Montgomery entered with the Cubs leading, 2-1, and the game was never a blowout. The last major-league pitcher to earn a four-inning save in a game decided by a margin of fewer than five runs was Marcus Stroman, who got the last 12 outs of Toronto’s 4-2 win over Baltimore on Sept. 26, 2014. And, while it won’t bump Montgomery’s World Series save off the top of his list, his save against the Giants marked the first time in 20 years that a Cubs pitcher had earned a save in which he pitched at least four innings and allowed no runs. The last to do that was Kent Bottenfield on July 4, 1997.

Ryu’s lengthy save

Kenta Maeda went the first five and earned the victory, while Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched the last four innings and was credited with his first MLB save in the Dodgers’ 7-3 win over the Cardinals. Ryu’s save came about eight hours after the Cubs’ Mike Montgomery also earned a 12-out save. Neither Ryu nor Montgomery allowed a run over their four innings pitched. It was the first day in more than 13 years on which two major-league pitchers earned saves of four-or-more innings. The last such instance came on April 23, 2004, when the Tigers’ Esteban Yan and the Angels’ Kevin Gregg each earned saves in which they pitched four innings and allowed no runs.

Rays menu: Andriese on a Rasmus roll

Colby Rasmus stroked a two-run single in the first inning and followed up with a two-run double in the fifth to knock in the game’s only runs in the Rays’ victory over the visiting Angels, as the teams split their four-game series. Believe it or not, you have to go back just over a quarter-century to find the last major-league game in which a player drove in all of the runs in a game, minimum of four, without hitting a home run. The last player to do that was Hall-of-Famer Eddie Murray, playing for the Mets against the Astros on April 28, 1992. Rasmus flipped the script followed by Murray, who hit a two-run double in the first inning and a two-run single in the fifth.

In both the first and fifth innings on Thursday, Rasmus batted with the bases full and two outs. While his Tampa Bay teammates are 3-for-20 in such at-bats this season, Rasmus is 3-for-6.

Matt Andriese earned the victory with eight scoreless innings, lifting his career record during the month of May to 7-0. Andriese is only the second pitcher to break into the majors over the last 10 seasons and win his first seven merriest-of-months decisions; Hisashi Iwakuma started his MLB career in that manner with the Mariners over 2013 and 2014.

Frazier’s carbon-copy homer

Adam Frazier’s three-run homer capped a five-run second inning as the Pirates achieved a split of their four-game series in Atlanta with a 9-4 victory on Thursday afternoon. Frazier connected off Bartolo Colon, less than 18 hours after he had clobbered a three-run homer off Julio Teheran in the second inning of Wednesday night’s game between the teams. Frazier became the first big-league leadoff hitter in this century to connect for either a three-run or a grand-slam homer in the second inning of consecutive games. The last to do that was the Rockies’ Neifi Perez; on July 3, 1999, Perez did it twice in a day as Colorado swept both ends of a day-and-night program from the Padres. Prior to Perez, it had last been done by Atlanta’s Claudell Washington in April of 1984.

Nats go to bullpen, Cruz smacks the big blow

Nelson Cruz, the first batter facing Nationals reliever Jacob Turner, belted a sixth-inning, three-run homer to end the Mariners’ string of scoring only a single run in each of five straight games and propel the team to a 4-2 victory. Washington starter Gio Gonzalez allowed only three hits over five and one-third innings and was taken out with two men on base and Cruz coming up. Gonzalez had escaped a bases-full situation in the fifth inning with two strikeouts, lowering his opponents’ batting average with runners in scoring position to .111 (five hits in 45 at-bats), the lowest against any National League pitcher this season (minimum: 25 at-bats). Meanwhile, Washington’s relief pitchers have allowed a major-league-high .304 batting average with runners in scoring position.

Joseph’s game evokes Howard’s, 11 years ago

Tommy Joseph’s home run tied the game at 1-1 in the seventh inning and his RBI single delivered the walkoff run in the 11th as the Phillies took a 2-1 decision over the visiting Rockies, narrowly avoiding being swept in the four-game series. It had been just over 11 years since a Phillies player knocked in all of his team’s runs, including the final run of the first nine innings and then the game-winning in extra innings. On May 14, 2006, the Phillies won, 2-1, in Cincinnati, when Ryan Howard, on his way to the National League’s MVP Award, pinch-hit a game-tying homer in the eighth and, after staying in the game at first base, hit a game-winning homer in the 12th.

Diamondbacks win with early thunder

Gregor Blanco led off the game by smacking a home run and teammate Chris Owings inaugurated the second inning the same way and the Diamondbacks went on take a 4-0 decision in Milwaukee. It was the third time this season that a major-league team has started each of the first two innings with a home run. The Rays did that at home against the Astros on April 21 (Corey Dickerson and Logan Morrison) and Houston’s George Springer did it by himself at Yankee Stadium on May 14, homering at the outset of both the first and the second innings.

The last time that the Diamondbacks started the first two innings with home runs was back on July 21, 2010, when Chris Young and Rusty Ryal did it against the Mets.

Lamet beats les Mets

Dinelson Lamet, in his major-league debut, struck out eight batters while allowing only one run over five innings and earned the victory in the Padres’ soggy 4-3 win over the Mets. Lamet’s strikeout total was the highest this season by a pitcher making his big-league debut, and it was the second-highest in the Padres’ 49-year history. On April 10, 1977, Bob Shirley fanned 11 batters while pitching eight and two-thirds innings in a 12-4 victory at Cincinnati.

We’ll see how Lamet’s career progresses, but at a minimum, he now shares not a birthday, but a major-league-debut-day with both Willie Mays (who broke into the majors on May 25 in 1951) and Clayton Kershaw (whose first big-league game came on May 25 in 2008).