Elias Says: July 1, 2017

A month (of home runs) to remember

Hector Sanchez pinch-hit a two-run homer off Sergio Romo in the ninth inning of the Dodgers’ win in San Diego, a moment that would not normally lead “Elias Says.” However, Sanchez hit the last of MLB’s 1101 home runs in 408 games during June, a total that far surpassed the previous record for home runs in one month (1069 homers in 405 games in May 2000). Indeed, the average of 2.70 home runs per game during June also broke the previous record for home runs in a month on a per-game basis; the old record of 2.64 homers per game was also set back in May 2000.

The Dodgers led the majors with 53 homers during June, followed by the Mets (50). Cody Bellinger led all individuals with 13 home runs, with George Springer (11) coming in second.

Wood and Barnes star for Dodgers

Austin Barnes blasted a first-inning grand-slam in the top of the first inning, connected for a three-run homer in the sixth, and caught Alex Wood, who allowed one run over six innings in the Dodgers’ 10-4 victory at San Diego. Barnes became the first catcher in Dodgers history to hit a grand-slam homer and a three-run homer in the same game. The victory boosted Wood’s record to 9-0, which surpassed Fernando Valenzuela’s eight-game winning streak to start the 1981 season. (Of course, we’re not oblivious to the fact that Fernando pitched nine innings in all eight of those games, including five shutouts, while winning the first eight starts of his big-league career that spring.)

The last Dodgers pitcher to start a season 9-0 was Rick Rhoden in 1976, who didn’t suffer his first defeat until his 20th start of the season, on August 6. The last Dodgers left-hander to win his first nine decisions was Preacher Roe back in Brooklyn in 1951.

Folty flirts with history

Mike Foltynewicz took a no-hit effort into the ninth inning at Oakland, only to see Matt Olson ruin it with a leadoff homer, but the Braves right-hander still earned credit for the team’s 3-1 victory. No Braves pitcher, or combination of pitchers, has tossed a no-hit game since Kent Mercker did so at Dodger Stadium on April 8, 1994. In fact, between Mercker and Foltynewicz, only one Braves pitcher had taken a potential no-hitter into the ninth inning. On May 17, 2015 at Miami, Shelby Miller saw his bid end when Justin Bour singled with two outs in the ninth.

Blackmon and Black’s men end 8-game skid

Charlie Blackmon got the party started with a home run leading off the game and added another hit later in the game as the Rockies ended an eight-game losing streak by taking measure of the Diamondbacks, 6-3, in Phoenix. Blackmon lifted his career batting average against the D’backs to .355, with 111 hits in 313 at-bats. That’s the second-highest batting average among the 109 players who have accumulated at least 200 at-bats against Arizona; Larry Walker batted .357 against the Diamondbacks.

Colorado snapped its losing streak on the 60th birthday of its manager, Bud Black. Over the last 40 seasons, only one other major-league manager saw his team end a single-season losing streak of eight-or-more games on his birthday. That man was no other than Bud Black, who on his 51st birthday in 2008, saw his Padres span an eight-game skid by scoring seven runs in the ninth to win, 15-8, at Coors Field in Denver! The major-league record for the longest losing single-season losing streak that ended on the manager’s birthday was set in 1963, when the Mets wrote finis to an 11-game slide with a 5-1 win at Dodger Stadium on skipper Casey Stengel’s 73rd birthday.

Gardner slams; Judge surpasses Matsui and Reggie

Brett Gardner crashed a grand-slam homer in the seventh inning, breaking open a game that the Yankees went on to win, 13-4, in Houston. It was the third jackpot homer of Gardner’s big-league career and it lifted his career batting average with the bases full to .356 (31 hits in 87 at-bats). That’s the highest career bases-loaded batting average (minimum: 80 at-bats) by a Yankees player since Dave Winfield played his last game with the team in 1990, after he had generated a .373 batting average (31 for 83) with the bags full for the Bombers.

Aaron Judge went hitless in four at-bats, with two walks and two strikeouts, which allowed him to surpass Hideki Matsui and Reggie Jackson in Yankees annals. Judge reached June 30 having reached base 150 times via hits, walks and being hit by pitches, breaking the previous high total for a Yankees rookie prior to the All-Star break—149 times reaching base safely by Matsui in 2003. And, to all of Judge’s other accomplishments that we have written about in this space, we now add that he finished June with 39 strikeouts, breaking the Yankees record of 37 strikeouts in one month that had been held since September 1978 by Mr. October himself.

Vargas, 6-0 in June, wins 12th and evokes Saberhagen

A much-anticipated pitching duel between the Royals’ Jason Vargas and the Twins’ Ervin Santana turned out to be no contest, as Kansas City scored seven runs off Santana en route to an 8-1 win. Vargas had entered the game at 11-3 and Santana at 10-4, in what was only the second matchup of pitchers with double-digit wins totals before July 1 over the last 20 seasons. (The other such meeting came on June 16, 2002, in a Red Sox-Braves game in which Derek Lowe, at 10-2, opposed Tom Glavine, 11-2.)

Vargas secured his 12th win on Friday night, becoming only the second pitcher in Royals history to win 12 games before July 1 (Bret Saberhagen stood at 13-2 entering July in 1987). Vargas finished off a clean sheet for the month of June: six starts and six wins. The last Kansas City pitcher to win six games in a month was Saberhagen in September of 1989, after Bret had earned seven victories in August of that year!

Vogt winning popular vote in Milwaukee

Stephen Vogt, playing in just his third game with the Brewers, hit a pair of homers and knocked in all three of his team’s runs in a 3-2 victory over the visiting Marlins. No other player in franchise history has ever enjoyed a multiple-homer game so early in his career with the team. The previous record for that sort of thing was established in 1969, the year that the franchise was born, when it played in Seattle as the Pilots. Greg Goossen, who joined the team in July of that season, poled a pair of homers in his fourth game with the team.

The win was nailed down by Corey Knebel, who pitched a scoreless ninth, striking out two after the potential tying run has been thrown out at the plate. Knebel has struck out at least one batter in each of his 40 appearances this season, breaking the major-league single-season record for consecutive games with at least one strikeout, previously held by Bruce Sutter at 39.

Souza makes it 15-of-15 with extra-inning blast

Steven Souza, Jr. belted a three-run homer off Darren O’Day in the 10th inning and the Rays held on for a 6-4 triumph in Baltimore. It was the 15th homer of the season for the right-handed-hitting Souza, and all 15 have been surrendered by right-handed pitchers; Souza is the first right-handed batter whose first 15 homers of a season all came against righty pitchers since Matt Holliday in 2013. Meanwhile, Souza’s shot was the first homer that O’Day has allowed to a right-handed batter since Chris Young clipped him last June 1.

Souza’s wallop was the first extra-inning round-tripper of his major-league career, but it was the Rays’ fifth extra-inning homer this season, one shy of the major-league-leading total of six, shared by the Pirates and the Orioles; Logan Morrison has hit two of those homers, while Evan Longoria and Derek Norris supplied the others. It’s the most extra-inning homers by the Rays since they hit five in the 2009 season.

4th win in last 4 starts for deGrom

Jacob deGrom won his fourth straight start, limiting the Phillies to one run and three hits over seven innings in the Mets’ 2-1 victory. DeGrom has held opponents to a .139 batting average while fashioning an ERA of 0.84 over those four starts. The only other pitchers in Mets history who won four consecutive starts within one season with a sub-1.00 ERA and an opponents’ batting average below .140 were Tom Seaver in 1974, R. A. Dickey in 2012 and Matt Harvey in 2013.

DeGrom has thrown 32 innings over his last four starts, matching Max Scherzer for the highest innings total by any major-league pitcher over four consecutive starts this season. Scherzer did that from May 26 to June 11.

Zunino puts his name alongside Mariners greats

The Mariners finished off June with a bat-fest in Anaheim, collecting 17 hits in 10-0 win over the Angels. Robinson Cano hit a pair of homers and drove in five runs, Ben Gamel and Kyle Seager each had four hits, and Jarrod Dyson doubled twice. But we’ll give the love to Mike Zunino, who opened the scoring with a third-inning home run. Zunino finished the month with 10 home runs and 31 RBIs in 24 games, batting .304 and slugging .722. Zunino’s RBI total led the major leagues during June, and he became the fifth player in Mariners history to amass 10 homers and 30 RBIs in one month, joining Ken Griffey, Jr. (three times), Edgar Martinez (twice), Alex Rodriguez and Jay Buhner.

Mr. Xtra Innings comes through again

Xander Bogaerts delivered an opposite-field, 11th-inning single that snapped a 4-4 tie and sent the Red Sox to a 7-4 victory in Toronto. Bogaerts has now come through with 16 hits in his last 30 at-bats in extra innings, dating back to the start of the 2015 season. That’s a batting average of .533, tops among all big-leaguers with 20-plus extra-inning at-bats over those two and one-half seasons.

Span does his yardwork early

Denard Span hit the second pitch of the game for a record-tying home run, then spent the rest of the evening collecting three more hits and scoring three more runs as the Giants took a 13-5 decision in Pittsburgh. Span’s homer was the 1069th in the majors during the month of June, tying the single-month record set in May 2000. (The record was broken minutes later, when Justin Smoak homered for the Blue Jays.)

Span became only the second major-leaguer over the last seven seasons who produced four hits and four runs scored in a game in which he homered to lead off the first inning. Aaron Hicks did it while playing for the Twins against the Rangers on Aug. 12, 2015. No Giants player had put together a game like that since Bobby Bonds did it, also at Pittsburgh, on June 6, 1973.

Feldman the latest to shut down Cubs

Scott Feldman made his 200th major-league start a memorable one, holding the Cubs to two hits, both singles, over seven innings of the Reds’ 5-0 victory. Has any other pitcher ever defeated the defending World Series champions while allowing two-or-fewer hits in a centennial start (100th, 200th, etc.)? Actually, no. Feldman was the first.

It marked the third time this season that the Cubs have been blanked while producing no more than three hits, and no extra-base hits. (The crosstown White Sox are the only other major-league team that has suffered through three such games this season.) Over the last 25 seasons, only two other defending World Series champions reached the end of June having experienced three such shutouts—the Red Sox in 2008 and again in 2014.

Molina streaking again

Yadier Molina had two hits and drove in four runs as the Cardinals took an 8-1 verdict from the Nationals. Molina extended his hitting streak to 15 games; earlier this season, he put together a 16-game hitting streak from May 8 to May 27. Molina is the first major-leaguer this season to fashion a pair of hitting streaks of 15-or-more games.

The Melkman delivers late

Melky Cabrera lashed a two-run double to cap a three-run, last-of-the-ninth comeback and to lift the White Sox to an 8-7 victory over the Rangers. It was the 13th major-league game in which Cabrera has provided a walkoff RBI, and the fourth time that it had been the type of walkoff win in which Cabrera’s team trailed before his big hit. His last trailing-to-winning walkoff hit had come on April 21, 2011, while Cabrera played for the Royals, against Cleveland’s Chris Perez.