Elias Says: Sept. 2, 2017

Kershaw’s first start in 40 days results in a Dodgers record

Clayton Kershaw made a triumphant, dominating and efficient return to the mound, allowing two hits and no walks while striking out seven in the Dodgers’ 1-0 win over the Padres, a victory that ended the team’s five-game losing streak. Kershaw was pitching for the Dodgers for the first time in 40 days, since a back ailment interrupted another Hall-of-Fame quality season on July 23. The game marked the 16th consecutive Kershaw start that the Dodgers have won, setting a franchise record in that category. The Dodgers won 15 consecutive games started by Hall-of-Famer Dazzy Vance during the 1924 season.

Kershaw lifted his season record to 16-2, becoming the first major-leaguer to win 16 of his first 18 decisions in a season since Max Scherzer started 17-1 for the Tigers in 2013. Prior to this season, only four pitchers in Dodgers history won 16 of their first 18 decisions in a season: Joe McGinnity in 1900 (16-2), Freddie Fitzsimmons in 1940 (16-2), Preacher Roe in 1951 (16-2), and Don Newcombe in 1955 (17-1).

Benintendi sets record as Fister bests Gray

Doug Fister gave up doubles to Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge to start the bottom of the first, and thereafter blanked the Yankees through seven innings as the Red Sox evened the series in the Bronx with a 4-1 victory. It was Fister’s fourth victory in his last six starts (including two wins over the Indians and now one over the Yankees), a span over which he has produced an ERA of 3.05 while holding opponents to a .201 batting average. Over his last 11 starts prior to that recent stretch—from last August 28 to this July 20—Fister had a record of 0-8, with an ERA of 8.55 and an opponents’ batting average of .362.

Boston hammered three home runs off Yankees starter Sonny Gray, who had entered the game with the majors’ lowest rate of homers allowed (one for every 12⅔ innings) among pitchers who had thrown at least 125 innings. Andrew Benintendi clobbered one of those homers, his fifth in eight games at Yankee Stadium this season. That ties the most home runs that any Red Sox player has hit in a season at either version of Yankee Stadium; Jim Rice homered five times in seven games in the Bronx in 1983. Moreover, he set a record for home runs on the road against the Yankees in a rookie season. He broke a mark that had stood since the Roosevelt Administration—Teddy, that is. In 1905, rookie George Stone of the St. Louis Browns belted four home runs in his team’s trips to Hilltop Park, where New York’s American League team—alternately called the Yankees, Hilltoppers or Highlanders—then played its home games.

Walker’s calling card: HR in 1-0 win

Neil Walker’s first-inning homer produced the only run in a Tanner Roark vs. Jimmy Nelson pitchers duel, and Corey Knebel wrapped up the Brewers’ 1-0 victory over the Nationals with a three-strikeout ninth inning. It was the fourth time in his big-league career that Walker homered for the game’s only run, the most such homers among active players. Remarkably, only one player in MLB history has homered more frequently in 1-0 games: Ted Williams did that five times.

Moreover, Walker became only the second major-leaguer over the last two seasons whose first-inning homer led to a 1-0 victory; Minnesota’s Miguel Sano did that at Cleveland on May 12 of this year. And who was the last Brewers player to hit a first-inning homer in a 1-0 win? None other than their current manager Craig Counsell, who delivered at Miller Park on July 5, 2004, off the Cubs’ Matt Clement!

Knebel fanned Adam Lind for the final out with a runner on first base, and he has now held opponents hitless in 30 consecutive at-bats with runners on base. That ties the longest such stretch in the major leagues this season. And who is the only pitcher who had such a streak earlier this season? None other than Knebel himself, who held opponents hitless over 30 at-bats with runners on base from May 11 to June 28.

LoMo on the ro’

Logan Morrison belted a two-run homer in the first inning and stroked an RBI single in the third to drive in all of the Rays’ runs in their 3-1 victory over the White Sox in Chicago. The home run was the 34th of the season for the big first baseman, including 25 that he has hit on the road. In fact, only Giancarlo Stanton has hit as many road homers as Morrison this season, but while Giancarlo has produced 26 homers in 268 at-bats in road games, Morrison has produced his 25 roadies in only 226 at-bats (one home run for every 9.04 at-bats). No major-leaguer who hit at least 20 road homers has done it with such a good at-bats-to-homers ratio since Barry Bonds in 2003 (22 homers in 195 road at-bats, one homer for every 8.9 at-bats).

Gallo ties Judge for A.L. home run lead

Joey Gallo belted his 37th homer of the season, tying Aaron Judge for the American League lead, and helping the Rangers build an early lead against the Angels. Mike Scioscia’s team, with a lineup fortified by Justin Upton and Brandon Phillips, pulled into a 9-9 tie in the eighth inning before a wild pitch allowed Carlos Gomez to score with what proved to be the decisive run in the Rangers’ 10-9 victory. Prior to Friday night, the last time that Judge was not in sole possession of his league’s lead for home runs was May 28. After games played on May 28, Judge was tied with Mike Trout for the American league (and major-league) lead with 16 homers.

Walker wins, aided by a minivan’s worth of relievers

Taijuan Walker pitched five scoreless innings, striking out 10 and allowing three hits for the Diamondbacks in their game in Denver on Friday night. But, as an introduction to September baseball in 2017, the services of seven Arizona relief pitchers were required over the game’s last four innings before the D-backs put a bow on their 9-5 victory. The key blow, as it turned out, was a three-run pinch-hit homer by Daniel Descalso in the seventh that gave Arizona a 9-2 lead. That was Descalso’s fifth pinch-homer over the last three seasons, tying Conor Gillaspie and Kelly Johnson for the second-highest total in the majors over that span; Matt Adams has hit six.

Moose ties Bye-Bye

Mike Moustakas smashed a three-run homer to highlight the Royals’ five-run third inning and to tie the Royals’ single-season home run record, and Kansas City held off the Twins to take a 7-6 victory in Minneapolis. Moustakas tied the record of 36 homers set in 1985 by Steve (Bye Bye) Balboni. Balboni’s total of 36 homers, now tied by the Moose, stands as the lowest total to serve as the single-season record for any of the 30 current franchises. Balboni set that record in a season in which the Royals went on to win the World Series, something that is true for only two of the 29 other franchise record-holders—Roger Maris (61 homers for the Yankees in 1961) and Luis Gonzalez (57 for the Diamondbacks in 2001).

It’s becoming a habit: Indians take two

Jay Bruce, who has hit 33 home runs this season, delivered his first triple—and as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning with the score tied, no less—and Francisco Lindor knocked him home to register what proved to be the winning run in the Indians’ 3-2 victory in Detroit on Friday afternoon. Bruce’s triple was only the 16th by a big-league pinch-hitter this season, and was the first that came with the score tied. The last Indians pinch-hitter to deliver a three-base hit was Ryan Rayburn back on May 29, 2015. Cleveland also took the night game, 10-0.

The Indians have won two games in a day three times this season: on June 17 at Minnesota, on August 30 at Yankee Stadium, and on Friday at Detroit. Cleveland is the first major-league team since the 2012 Twins to record two wins in a day at least three times in a single season. The last time that the Indians achieved that feat was in 1989.

The afternoon contest ended when Joe Smith emerging from the bullpen to retire Miguel Cabrera on a line drive with two outs and the bases full. It marked only the second time in Miggy’s career that he had made a game’s final out with the bases loaded and his team trailing by a single run. Back on July 27, 2010, Tampa Bay’s Rafael Soriano got Cabrera to bounce into a double play, preserving the Rays’ 3-2 victory.

Cardinals win with 4 triples, 3 homers

The Cardinals launched an extra-base-hit barrage consisting of a double, four triples and three home runs in overcoming an early Giants lead and earning an 11-6 win at San Francisco. The four triples constituted the most by one major-league team in a single game this season, and included one by Yadier Molina—the seventh in his 1727-game MLB career. Stephen Piscotty was the headliner: he tripled and scored in the seventh inning, singled and scored in the eighth and launched a two-run homer in the ninth. It marked the first time in 99 years that the Cardinals have generated four triples and three home runs in the same game. Only July 27, 1918, the Cardinals trounced the Dodgers, 22-7, at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, accumulating four triples and three homers among their 26 hits.

Lackey mows down Braves

John Lackey produced a gem at Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon, allowing three singles and no other base runners over seven innings, and earning credit for the Cubs’ 2-0 victory over the Braves. The veteran right-hander finished his day’s work with a flourish, retiring the last 16 Atlanta batters that he faced, matching the longest run of consecutive batters retired in any of his last 214 starts, a streak that dates to 2009, his last year with the Angels. Since moving to the National League in 2014, Lackey had retired 16 batters in a row in only one other start—that coming against the Phillies on June 8 of last year.

The Cubs have won each of their last five games, with their starting pitcher throwing a quality start and earning a win in each of those contests. Four other teams have had five-game streaks of that sort this season—the Indians have had three separate streaks of five games (one in April, two in August), and the Nationals, Rockies, and Yankees each have produced one such five-game streak.

Schoop breaks the scoreless tie in 13th

Jonathan Schoop’s 13th-inning double sent home Manny Machado from first base with the game’s only run in the Orioles’ victory over the Blue Jays. Schoop came to the plate with a .133 career batting average in extra innings (four hits in 30 at-bats), but he came away with the second walkoff RBI of his big-league career. (He hit a ninth-inning walkoff homer off Tanner Roark in 2015.) Schoop had started the day with the second-lowest extra-innings batting average among the 200-plus active players with at least 25 at-bats in the 10th inning or later. (Carlos Gomez has 11 hits in 87 at-bats in extra innings, a .126 average.)

There had been only two other 1-0 walkoff wins in the 13th inning or later in the history of the franchise. The Orioles beat the White Sox in that manner in 16 innings in 1959, and they outlasted the Brewers, 1-0, in 17 innings in 1974.

Leake turns it around in debut with Mariners

Mike Leake, pitching for the Mariners against the A’s, allowed hits to each of the first three batters he faced in his American League debut but then allowed only five more over a seven-inning performance on his way to earning a 3-2 victory. During August, while with the Cardinals, Leake had an ERA of 8.88, the third-highest among the 108 major-league pitchers who tossed at least 25 innings during the month. Ian Kennedy (9.57) and Derek Holland (9.00) kept Leake from the top spot. But neither Kennedy nor Holland nor anyone else could keep Leake from yielding the highest opponents’ batting average (.375) during August among those 108 pitchers.

Hamilton sets the tone

Billy Hamilton got things started in Pittsburgh with a single leading off the first inning, a steal and a go-to-third on the catcher’s throwing error, and scoring the game’s first run on Joey Votto’s double. The Reds went on to win it, 7-3. The stolen base was Hamilton’s 56th this season, 10 of which have come against the Pirates, the most by any major-league player against any team this season. It’s also the third time that Billy has reached stolen 10 bags in a season against Pittsburgh; he swiped 12 in 2014 and 16 the next year. Since 1900, the only other player to reach double-digit steals against the Pirates in three different seasons was Vince Coleman, who did it four times over five years in the last 1980s.

Memorable first day on the job for Nicasio

It’s your first day with the team, you answer the call to the bullpen in the eighth inning of a game in which your team is trailing, 1-0, and when you get to the mound, you realize that you are sixty feet, six inches away from Giancarlo Stanton. But the major leagues’ home run leader hits your third pitch just a few feet in front of the plate and is thrown out by the catcher.

That was what Juan Nicasio’s first night with the Phillies was like, after the team had claimed him from the Pirates on intrastate waivers a day earlier. His reward? The Phillies scored twice in the ninth, Hector Neris preserved the lead, and Nicasio was credited as the winning pitcher in his one-batter (but what a batter!) debut. Only one other active pitcher was credited as the winning pitcher in his first game for his current team despite getting just one out. Josh Ravin had such a debut in his first game for the Dodgers in 2015—a one-batter appearance in which he caught DJ LeMahieu looking.

The Phillies ended a streak of 40 consecutive losses in road games when scoring fewer than three runs. That had been the majors’ longest streak of that sort since Tampa Bay lost 67 straight games of that sort from 2007 to 2011.

Low-scoring winners, three 1-0 games, few HRs on Friday

In eight of Friday’s 15 major-league games, the winning team scored no more than three runs. It was the first day this season on which there were as many as eight games of that type.

In addition, Friday was the first day this season on which there were multiple 1-0 games—and there weren’t just two of them, there were three (Milwaukee over Washington, Baltimore over Toronto, and the Dodgers over San Diego). The last time there were three 1-0 games in the majors on a single day was back on Sept. 28, 2014. (Baltimore defeated Toronto, 1-0, that day as well.)

Finally, Friday’s 15 MLB games included only 19 home runs, an average of 1.27 homers per game. That was by far the lowest average of homers per game on any of the 149 days on which MLB games have been played this season. The previous low, 1.67 homers per game, was set on June 27. The last day on which at least 15 games were played and the average of homers per game was as low as it was on Friday? That would be May 20, 2015, when there were 1.13 homers per game.