Elias Says: March 31, 2018

History-making Panik in Southern California

Joe Panik, whose fifth-inning home run off Clayton Kershaw provided the only run in the Giants’ season-opening 1-0 win at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, duplicated the feat on Friday night, connecting off Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning for the only run of the game. Panik became the first player in major-league history to hit a home run in each of two consecutive 1-0 games. Mind you, we’re not talking about his being the first player to do that in the first two games of a season; we’re talking about the first player to do it in any two consecutive games at any point of a season.

Only one other major-league team started a season with a pair of 1-0 wins—and that team did it under extenuating circumstances, 75 years ago. During the dark days of World War II, the scarcity of rubber affected the production of baseballs, and a substance called balata (a sort of imitation rubber) was used in the balls early in the season, resulting in very low scores. The Reds defeated the Cardinals, 1-0, in each of their first two games that year, the first game in 11 innings, the next in 10 innings. (The next two games of that series were won by the Cardinals, 2-1 and 1-0. After a few weeks, the use of those balls ended as they found enough conventional balls left over from the previous year to get through the rest of the season.)

Polanco’s 3-run HR on 3-0 count settles a wild one

Gregory Polanco’s two-out, three-run homer broke a 10-10 tie in the 13th inning and the Pirates held on to defeat the Tigers, 13-10, in the delayed opener at Detroit. Polanco connected on a 3-0 pitch off an apparently tiring Alex Wilson, who wound up throwing a career-high 65 pitches over 3⅔ innings of relief. It was just the fourth extra-inning homer on a 3-0 pitch over the last 10 seasons in the major leagues. For Polanco, it was the second time that he has homered as late as the 13th inning; on June 13, 2014, Polanco went 5-for-7 in a game at Miami, with the fifth hit being a 13th-inning homer, his first in the majors. It’s the most runs that the Pirates have scored in their first game of a season since Honus Wagner and the boys drubbed the Reds, 14-0, at Cincinnati in 1911.

The Tigers, who had won their last nine home openers, seemed to have extended their streak when Nicholas Castellanos apparently slid home safely with the winning run on a 10th-inning hit by JaCoby Jones. But upon replay review, Castellanos was called out and the game went on. Previously, the game went to the ninth inning tied, 6-6, and to the 10th inning tied, 10-10. In only two other games in MLB history did a game reach extra innings after each team had scored exactly four runs in the ninth. The Pirates won the more recent of those games, 9-8, in 10 innings over the Rockies in 1999; back in 1935, the New York Giants defeated the Cardinals, 13-10, in 10 innings.

The Tigers, playing in their 18,308th game in franchise history, tied the franchise record for most runs allowed in a season opener played at home. Remarkably, that record was set in the first game that the Tigers played as a major-league team, on April 25, 1901, when the Milwaukee Brewers (unrelated to the current team by the same name) took a 13-4 lead into the last of the ninth, only to see the Tigers score 10 runs in that inning to capture a 14-13 decision.

Surgical Scherzer tops Reds

Max Scherzer was his usual precise self, striking out 10 batters in six innings to send the Nationals toward a 2-0 victory at Cincinnati. Think about this: Scherzer has now averaged at least one strikeout per inning in 37 of his last 40 starts (dating back to August of 2016). With Friday’s performance, Scherzer tied the National League record for that sort of thing—Randy Johnson averaged at least one strikeout per inning in 37 of 40 starts for the Diamondbacks overlapping the 1999 and 2000 seasons, and also in a sequence spanning the 2000 and 2001 seasons. The major-league record over a 40-start span is 38 strikeout-per-inning starts, held by Chris Sale.

Scherzer allowed five hits, three of them to Scooter Gennett, who finished the game 4-for-4. Gennett, who hit four homers in a game last year, has now joined the “4040 Club”—producing a boxscore line of four at-bats, no runs scored, four hits and no RBIs. The last Reds player to produced four hits in a game in which his team failed to score was Cesar Geronimo in a 1-0 loss to the Braves’ Carl Morton on June 21, 1974.

Braun’s dramatic blow wins it in San Diego

Ryan Braun’s two-out ninth-inning home run—on an 0-2 count, no less—turned a 6-5 deficit into an 8-6 lead that the Brewers successfully protected to annex an exciting victory in San Diego. It was the fifth time in Braun’s major-league career that he has homered in the ninth inning to turn a deficit into a lead. His most recent blow of that sort victimized Jason Grilli in Pittsburgh on April 19, 2014.

Big guns stay silent, small guns make noise

Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge each went 0-for-4 and never reached base in the Yankees’ game at Toronto, but every other player in the lineup either scored a run or had a hit. And to knock in the runs in their 4-2 victory, the Yankees relied on eighth-place-hitter Brandon Drury and nine-hole-hitter Tyler Wade, each of whom drove in a pair of runs. The Yankees have won only one other game since 1920 (when the major leagues began recording RBIs) in which they scored at least four runs and saw each of them driven in by their starting eight- or nine-hitters. In a 5-1 win at Texas in 2004, ninth-place-hitter Miguel Cairo belted a grand-slam homer and the predecessor in the lineup, John Olerud, hit a solo homer.

Price follows Sale with scoreless effort

David Price needed only 76 pitches to subdue the Rays through seven innings but this time, Boston’s bullpen provided a pair of scoreless innings to wrap up the visitors’ 1-0 victory over the Rays in St. Petersburg. In his last five games against the Rays, Price has a 3-0 record and an ERA of 0.58.

Price’s performance came a day after Opening Day starter Chris Sale pitched six innings, allowing no runs and one hit, only to see the Red Sox’ 4-0 lead relinquished by the relief squad. This season marks only the third time in the team’s 118-year history that Sox starters have not allowed a run over the first two games of the season. The Red Sox started the 1919 season, in defense of that now-famous 1918 World Series victory, with complete-game shutouts by Carl Mays and Sam Jones, and they started the 1940 season with similar efforts by Lefty Grove and Jim Bagby, Jr.

Rojas gets winning hit in 17th inning in Miami

Miguel Rojas stroked a two-out single off Brandon Morrow in last of the 17th inning to send home the long-awaited winning run as the Marlins nipped the Cubs, 2-1. In a game that produced 34 strikeouts but only 20 hits, the features were the extra-inning relief performances of Miami’s Jarlin Garcia (six innings, no runs) and Chicago’s Eddie Butler (seven innings, one run). Friday’s game was the first in the majors in which each team used a relief pitcher for at least six innings since a Marlins-Mets game on June 8, 2013, when Miami’s Kevin Slowey pitched seven innings and New York’s Shaun Marcum went eight.

Prior to Friday night, the only instance in major-league history of teams playing a game as long as 17 innings in either their first or second game of a season came on April 9, 1969, when the Royals defeated the Twins, 4-3, in 17 innings in what was the second game of the season for each team (and the second in franchise history for the Royals).

Trout connects, Angels win

Mike Trout, who went 0-for-6 in the season-opening game on Thursday, homered in the first inning on Friday night, then scored an insurance run in the ninth that the Angels would eventually need in order to take a 2-1 decision in Oakland. The home run was Trout’s 14th in 58 games played in Oakland—a stadium that first served as home to the Athletics 50 years ago. Trout has hit at least one home run at Oakland in each of the last seven seasons, the longest streak by a visiting player since Mike Napoli connected there in each of seven straight seasons from 2006 to 2012.

Ahmed torments the Rockies

Nick Ahmed went 3-for-4 with a home run and five RBIs, and the Diamondbacks needed every one of those RBIs to hold off the visiting Rockies, 9-8. Colorado has likely seen enough of Ahmed, who owns a .333 (36-for-108) career batting average against the Rockies, compared to a .215 average against all other major-league teams.

Santana and Hoskins lead Phils

Carlos Santana’s night included a third-inning sacrifice fly, a solo game-tying home run in the fifth, and a sacrifice fly in the 11th that delivered what proved to be the winning run in the Phillies’ 5-4 victory in Atlanta. Believe it or not, since the major leagues brought back the sacrifice-fly rule in 1954, only one other Phillies player had two sacrifice flies and a home run in the same game. Ryan Howard did that in a victory over the Braves on May 4, 2006.

Rhys Hoskins started the scoring for the Phillies with a solo home run, his first this season and the first of his career in eight games against the Braves. Last year, Hoskins failed to connect in six games against Atlanta, but he poled 18 longballs in 44 games against all other major-league teams.

Andrus still hassling Astros

Shin-Soo Choo stroked three hits while Joey Gallo and Elvis Andrus had two apiece, pacing the Rangers’ attack in a 5-1 victory over the Astros. Andrus, who also had two hits in the season opener, is now 4-for-7 in two games against the defending world champions this season. That’s just a continuation of last year, when Andrus batted .391 (27-for-69) against the Astros, and had more hits against Houston that did any other player.

LeBron passes MJ for longest 10-point streak ever

LeBron James required just over six minutes to rack up 11 points in the first quarter against the Pelicans. And his final field goal of the period clinched his 867th straight game of 10 or more points, establishing an NBA record for the most consecutive games with a double-digit point total. James entered the day tied with Michael Jordan, whose 866-game streak of scoring at least 10 points began in March 1986 and survived a pair of retirements in the 1990’s before coming to an end on Dec. 27, 2001.

LeBron’s streak began with a 19-point effort against the Nets on Jan. 6, 2007. Since the start of his streak, he’s had 11 games in which he entered the fourth quarter with fewer than 10 points. His closest call of finishing with a single digit in the points column came on Feb. 7, 2007 – he registered his 10th and 11th points with 57.2 seconds remaining in regulation against the Clippers.

Simmons wraps up an unprecedented month for a rookie

Ben Simmons capped a spectacular month with his 11th triple-double of the season, posting 13 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists for the 76ers in a win over the Hawks. Philadelphia finished the month of March with a 13–3 record, marking the first time since November 2002 that the Sixers posted 10 more wins than losses in a calendar month. Simmons did his part and then some, producing 204 points, 150 rebounds, and 170 assists. No player in NBA history, not even triple-double machine Oscar Robertson, had ever totaled at least 200 points, 150 rebounds, and 170 assists within a calendar month of his rookie season. The only 76ers player before Simmons to achieve that feat was Wilt Chamberlain, who racked up 396 points, 374 rebounds, and 170 assists for Philadelphia in February 1968.

How Green was Houston’s rally

The Rockets overcame an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter to defeat the Suns, capping a perfect five-game homestand for Houston and extending the team’s current winning streak to 11 games. Friday’s comeback marked the fourth time this season that the Rockets won a game after trailing by a double-digit margin at some point in the fourth quarter, tying the Celtics and Trail Blazers for the most comeback wins of that kind this season.

Gerald Green capped his first start of the season in epic fashion, nailing a three-pointer at the buzzer to cap the Rockets’ one-point triumph. It was the first buzzer-beating game-winning field goal for Green in 11 NBA seasons, and it was the third such shot by a Rockets player against the Suns over the last six seasons. James Harden hit a game-winner at the horn on two separate occasions for Houston against Phoenix, once in April 2013 and again in January 2015. The only other team that has made as many as three go-ahead buzzer-beating field goals against a particular opponent since 2012–13 is the Nets, who have made three such shots against the Pistons over that span.

Towns, Timberwolves sweep away another opponent

The Mavericks whittled a 12-point deficit in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter down to a single point, but the Timberwolves held on for the 93–92 victory, capping a four-game season-sweep for Minnesota over Dallas. It was the third four-win season-series sweep for the Timberwolves this season; Minnesota also went 4–0 against the Clippers and Pelicans. The T-Wolves completed only one four-game sweep of an opponent over the last 12 seasons combined, doing so against the Kings in 2015–16.

Karl-Anthony Towns produced 21 points and 20 rebounds, the fifth 20–20 game of his NBA career. However, Towns hasn’t been able to celebrate any of those monster games on his home floor, as all five of his 20-point/20-rebound performances have come on the road. At least the Timberwolves came away with a win this time – Minnesota was 0–4 in KAT’s previous 20/20 games.

Mitchell keeps Jazz in playoff position

Including his team-high 22 points against the Grizzlies on Friday, Donovan Mitchell has scored at least 20 points in each of his last eight games. That’s the longest streak of 20-point games by any rookie this season, and it tied the longest such streak by a Jazz rookie in the franchise’s history. Darrell Griffith also netted 20 or more points in each of eight straight games in the 1980–81 campaign. The only other NBA rookie with a streak as long as Mitchell’s over the last five seasons was Joel Embiid for the 76ers in 2016–17; Embiid reached the 20-point mark in 10 straight contests.

Nuggets benefit from Millsap’s big night

The Nuggets needed every one of Paul Millsap’s season-high 36 points to defeat the Thunder, 126–125. Millsap hasn’t reached the 30-point plateau many times in his 12 NBA seasons, but those occurrences have often resulted in victory for his team. Millsap’s teams improved to 14–5 in games that he has scored at least 30 points, including wins in his last 10 such games. The only active player with a longer current team-winning streak in his 30-point games is Stephen Curry; the Warriors have won each of the last 16 games in which Curry has totaled 30 or more points.

Bledsoe outscores Lakers in OT

Eric Bledsoe scored 11 of his game-high 39 points in overtime, leading the Bucks to victory over the Lakers at Staples Center. Friday’s late-game effort marked the second time this season that Bledsoe scored more than 10 points in an overtime period; he also scored 11 after regulation on January 1 at Toronto, though the Bucks lost that contest to the Raptors. No other NBA player has scored 10 or more points in an overtime period multiple times this season. The last player before Bledsoe to accomplish that feat in a season was Kyrie Irving, who posted a double-digit point-total in an overtime period twice within a seven-day span in December 2013.

13 is the Bulls’ lucky number for a change

The Bulls shared the scoring in their 90–82 victory over the Magic in Orlando. Lauri Markkanen and Sean Kilpatrick tied for the team-lead with 13 points, making Chicago the first team to win a game this season in which none of its players scored at least 14 points. Prior to Friday’s win, the Bulls had been 0–31 in franchise history in games that all of their players were held to 13 or fewer points.

Marchessault’s first 2-goal game of season brings Vegas a win

Jonathan Marchessault scored 22 seconds into overtime, his second goal of the game, giving the Golden Knights a 4-3 triumph over the visiting Blues. For Marchessault, the goals were his 26th and 27th of the season, but, rather remarkably, it was the first game of the season in which he had scored multiple goals—the other 25 goals coming in 25 games. Until Friday night, Marchessault had scored the most goals in the league this season without a multiple-goal game, a distinction of sorts that now belongs to the Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl, who has scored 24 goals in 24 different games.

Marner extends streaks in win over Isles

Mitch Marner had a goal and an assist for the Maple Leafs in their 5-4 win against the Islanders in Brooklyn, extending his point streak to 11 games and his assist streak to 10 games. Marner is only the third player in Toronto’s 100-year franchise history to earn an assist in each of 10 consecutive team games within one season. The others: Norm Ullman in 1970–71 (12 games) and Darryl Sittler in 1976–77 (11 games). Two NHL players other than Marner have produced a double-figure assist streak this season: Sidney Crosby (11 games, Jan. 5–Feb. 2) and Ottawa’s Mark Stone (Feb. 17–March 8).

Five Lightning strikes in one period

Brayden Point scored two of the five third-period goals by the Lightning in its 7-3 win against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. The only other game in the team’s 25 seasons in the NHL in which the Lightning scored as many goals in the third period was a 6-3 home-ice victory against the original Winnipeg Jets on Dec. 19, 1995; Tampa Bay scored all six of its goals that night in the final period.

Point scored 18 goals for the Lightning last season, his first in the NHL, and has scored 30 goals for Tampa Bay this season. He’s one of three NHL “sophomores” (i.e., players who were rookies last season but not in 2017-18) to have scored at least 30 goals this season. The others are Patrik Laine (43 goals) and Auston Matthews (31).

Capitals say “oh no” when they see Aho

Sebastian Aho scored his team-leading 28th goal of the season for the Hurricanes in their 4-1 win in Washington. Aho has earned 11 points against the Capitals in his two seasons in the NHL (five goals and six assists in eight games), tying Evgeni Malkin for the NHL high in points against Washington over that span.

50 shades of assists for Carlson

John Carlson reached the 50-assist mark for the first time in his nine-season NHL career when he assisted on the Capitals’ only goal in their loss to the Hurricanes. Carlson, a Massachusetts native, is the first U.S.-born defenseman to rack up at least 50 assists in one NHL season since Brian Leetch earned 58 assists for the Rangers in 2000-01. The only other U.S.-born defenseman to produce a 50-assist season for Washington was Kevin Hatcher, who had exactly 50 assists in 1990–91.

Avs power play continues to hum

Sven Andrighetto, Tyson Barrie and Mikko Rantanen each scored a power play goal for the Avalanche in its 5–0 win against the Blackhawks. Colorado has scored three or more power play goals in a game four times this season, tying the Kings, Islanders and Penguins for second most in the NHL behind the Bruins, who have done that five times. The Avs have scored 21 power play goals in the 20 games that they have played since February 20, the most power play goals any NHL team has scored over that span.

Rakell scores in OT

Rickard Rakell’s goal with 19 seconds remaining in overtime lifted the Ducks to a 2-1 win over the Kings. It was Rakell’s third game-winning goal this season and 20th game-winner over the last three seasons. The only NHL players who have scored more game-winning goals than Rakell over the last three seasons are Brad Marchand (22), Nathan MacKinnon (21) and Alex Ovechkin (21).