Elias Says: July 26, 2017

Astros riding high after 100 games

Charlie Morton threw seven shutout innings as the Astros coasted to a 5-0 victory over the Phillies on Tuesday night. Houston improved to 67-33 on the season, becoming the second team in the 2017 campaign to win at least 67 of its first 100 decisions (the Dodgers started 69-31). The last season in which multiple teams had that many wins through their first 100 decisions was in 1954. In that season, the Indians started 70-30 and the Yankees began 67-33. Cleveland went on to advance to the World Series, losing in four games to the Giants.

The Astros have scored 599 runs in 100 games this season. That is the second-most runs scored over a team’s first 100 games of a season in the last 15 years; the 2003 Red Sox scored 621 over their first 100 games. Houston shattered its previous high for runs scored through 100 games: 551 runs in the 2001 season.

Three rookies with 20 homers prior to August 1

The Padres’ Hunter Renfroe became the third rookie this season to hit 20 home runs (joining Cody Bellinger and Aaron Judge), hitting a solo blast off the Mets’ Seth Lugo on Tuesday night. This is the second season in major-league history in which three rookies had at least 20 homers prior to August 1. In 1987, Mark McGwire (37 home runs prior to August), Matt Nokes (22), and Bo Jackson (20) all did so.

Yankees score run on a triple play

The Yankees scored their first run of the game on Tuesday night in very unusual circumstances. With the bases loaded in the second inning, newly acquired Todd Frazier grounded into a triple play in which Matt Holliday came home to score. New York went on to win over the Reds, 4-2. Over the last 40 years, there had been only one other instance of a player scoring on a triple play. That occurred on May 27, 2006, when the Mariners’ Richie Sexson scored on a Kenji Johjima at-bat against the Twins at the Metrodome.

Since the start of the 1978 season, there have been 15 bases-loaded triple plays, including the one that occurred on Tuesday night.

Leadoff hitter connects on a slam, Encarnacion later wins it with walk-off slam

Bradley Zimmer, hitting first in the batting order for the Indians on Tuesday, connected on a second-inning grand slam to give Cleveland an early 6-0 over the Angels. Zimmer was the fourth leadoff batter to hit a grand slam this season, joining the Athletics’ Matt Joyce (June 4), the Yankees’ Brett Gardner (June 30), and the Dodgers’ Chris Taylor (July 1). The last to do so for the Indians was Michael Bourn on July 24, 2013 at Seattle.

Edwin Encarnacion capped off the night with a walk-off grand slam in the 11th inning to give the Indians the win. Since the start of the 2016 season, only one other team hit two-or-more grand slams in one game. Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman each hit one in a Nationals’ win over the Braves on April 19 earlier this season.

The Indians are the first team in major-league history to hit two grand slams in a walkoff win.

Gallo reaches 25 homers

Joey Gallo hit his 24th and 25th home runs of the season in the Rangers’ 10-4 victory over the Marlins. Gallo, who turns 24 years old in November, is just the second player in Rangers/Senators history, at age 23 years old or younger, to hit at least 25 home runs in a season prior to August 1. Juan Gonzalez did so in back-to-back seasons; hitting 26 at 22 years old in 1992 and 30 at 23 years old in 1993. Gonzalez went on to lead the majors in home runs in both seasons (led outright in 1992 and tied with Barry Bonds in 1993).

Over the last 10 seasons (since 2008), four other players, at 23 years old or younger, hit 25 homers in a season prior to August 1: Mike Trout and Bryce Harper (both in 2015), Trevor Story (2016), and Cody Bellinger (2017).

Gallo is hitting .199 on the season in 90 games played. Only one other player hit 25-or-more home runs with a sub-.200 batting average in his first 90 games of a season: Mark McGwire in 2001 (.187, 28 HR in first 90 games).

Merrifield is ready to start

Whit Merrifield homered on the first pitch of the game and the Royals never looked back, as they won their seventh straight game, a 3-1 win over the Tigers. If this sounds familiar, it should! Earlier this month, on July 4, Merrifield hit a homer on the very first pitch of the top of the first, connecting off the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez. Over the last 10 years, one other player hit two homers of this variety (on the first pitch of the top of the first) within one calendar month: Merrifield’s teammate Alcides Escobar in May 2015.

Dodgers are first to 70 wins

Chris Taylor drove in three runs as the Dodgers earned their 70th win of the season, a 6-2 triumph over the Twins. Los Angeles became the first team this season to reach 70 wins; the last time the franchise was the first to do so was in 1977 (through games of August 13, sporting a 70-46 record). The Dodgers reached the World Series that season, falling to the Yankees in six games.

Bader leaves his mark in MLB debut

Harrison Bader, making his major-league debut, doubled to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning and came around to score the winning run on a Jedd Gyorko sacrifice fly as the Cardinals defeated the Rockies in walkoff fashion. The last player, in his MLB debut, to score the winning run in his team’s walkoff victory was Carlos Perez of the Angels on May 5, 2015 versus the Mariners. Perez hit a walkoff home run in the bottom of the ninth inning.

No problem for Davies on the road

Zach Davies tossed 7 2/3 innings of shutout ball in the Brewers’ 8-0 rout of the Nationals on Tuesday. Davies improved to 6-0 with a 2.80 ERA in 11 road starts this season. And in 25 major-league starts on the road, Davies is 13-3 with a 3.39 ERA. Only four other active players had at least 10 more wins than losses in their first 25 road starts in the majors: CC Sabathia (15-4, 4.64 ERA), Ivan Nova (15-2, 3.52), Lance Lynn (14-3, 4.07), and Carlos Martinez (15-5, 2.47).

Contreras on the offensive in July

Willson Contreras hit a three-run home run in the first inning and later added an RBI single in the Cubs’ 7-2 victory over the White Sox on Tuesday at Wrigley Field. Contreras has seven home runs and 18 RBIs, all coming as a catcher, in the month of July. It has been over 20 years since the last time a Cubs catcher had that many home runs and RBIs in a calendar month. Current Mariners manager Scott Servais had eight home runs and 18 RBIs as a catcher in August 1995; Servais was a midseason acquisition as part of deal that also sent 2001 World Series hero Luis Gonzalez to Chicago from the Astros.

Valdez gets his second major-league win seven years after his first win

In his major-league debut on May 3, 2010, Cesar Valdez allowed just one run over five innings to earn the win for the Diamondbacks at Houston. Valdez would then have to wait more than seven years to get his second win in the majors, when he allowed one run over six innings in a Jays’ victory over the A’s on Tuesday. Among pitchers to debut since 2000, there had been one other case of a pitcher going at least seven years between his first and second MLB wins; Travis Blackley’s first win came as a member of the Mariners on July 1, 2004 and his second was with the A’s nearly eight years later on June 15, 2012.

Gray’s error hands Jays a win

A Sonny Gray throwing error led to the Blue Jays scoring four unearned runs in the second inning of a 4-1 win over the A’s on Tuesday. The Jays are the first team this season to win a game in which all of their runs scored were unearned (minimum four runs scored). Only three teams had wins of this variety in the 2016 season, most recently the Rays in a 4-1 win in Arlington against the Rangers.

Prior to Tuesday’s game, Gray had never allowed four-or-more unearned runs in a game in his major-league career.

Nunez is hot since June 1

Eduardo Nunez, who was traded to the Red Sox in the middle of Tuesday night’s game between the Giants and Pirates, went 1-for-2 and drove in two runs in a San Francisco blowout win. Since June 1, Nunez is batting .358 (39-for-109), fourth highest in the majors over that span (minimum 100 at-bats). The top three: Jose Altuve (.416), Andrew McCutchen (.366), and George Springer (.360).

Faria has strong outing in win over O’s

Rays rookie Jacob Faria allowed three runs over 7 1/3 innings to earn the win over the Orioles on Tuesday at Tropicana Field. Faria is 5-1 with a 2.67 ERA in nine major-league starts. Only two other Rays pitchers had an ERA under 3.00 through their first nine starts in the majors: Rolando Arrojo (6-2 W-L, 2.88 ERA) in 1998 and Alex Colome (5-2, 2.66) spanning starts from 2013 to 2015.