Stats & Info: Ivan Nova

Top stats to know: Yankees vs Red Sox

September, 15, 2013
9/15/13
2:41
PM ET
The Boston Red Sox go for a three-game sweep of the arch-rival New York Yankees tonight on “Sunday Night Baseball” (8 ET on ESPN and WatchESPN) and move closer toward clinching the AL East title. Boston’s magic number for doing so is six.

Here are five storylines the broadcast crew will be talking about tonight.

1. It’s been a long time since the Red Sox have enjoyed this kind of success against their long-time nemesis. Boston is seeking its 13th win against the Yankees this season in the final game of the season series. The Red Sox haven’t won 13 games against New York in a single season since winning 14 in 1973.

2. The return of Clay Buchholz, who makes his second start tonight since returning from a nearly three-month long stint on the DL, is a big deal for the Red Sox rotation.

When Buchholz went on the disabled list in June, he was 9-0 with a major-league leading 1.71 ERA.

Many credit Buchholz’s return to his All-Star form to the return of his former pitching coach John Farrell, who is now Boston’s manager. His difference in performance is noted in the chart on the right.

Batters have a had a hard time figuring out Buchholz this season as 44 of his 87 strikeouts (51 percent) have been looking this season. That’s the highest percentage of strikeouts looking of any pitcher with at least 10 starts this season.

Even worse news for the Yankees is that Buchholz has won both of his starts against New York this season, holding the Yanks to one run in 12 innings. Before this season, he hadn’t fared well against New York, posting a 2-5 record with a 7.19 ERA in 9 starts.

3. Ivan Nova, who will oppose Buchholz, has relied on his curveball this season. He’s thrown by far the highest percentage of curveballs among AL pitchers with at least 15 starts this season at 35 percent overall.

Nova’s curve is generating an eye-popping 48 percent miss per swing rate and opponents are batting only .148 in at-bats ending with his curveball this season. He’s generated 125 outs with the pitch versus 33 total bases allowed. The only pitcher with a higher miss-rate with his curveball is Yu Darvish, 52 percent.

4. The Red Sox are very pleased with the job Koji Uehara has done as their closer.

His 0.56 WHIP would stand up as the lowest single-season total (minimum 60 IP) in major league history if he can maintain similar numbers through the end of the season.

Since became the closer on June 26, Uehara has posted an 0.24 ERA with 18 saves in 35 appearances.

5. This will be Mariano Rivera’s last regular-season game against the Red Sox. His career save percentage against Boston is 78 percent (0including the postseason), his lowest against any AL opponent.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Rivera already tied the major-league record for most saves by a pitcher in his final season in the majors. Jeff Shaw (2001 Dodgers) and Robb Nen (2002 Giants) each registered 43 saves in his last major-league season; no other pitcher saved as many as 40.

Nova's hook makes the Yankees go

August, 31, 2013
8/31/13
5:11
PM ET
Ivan Nova worked down-and-away to lefties and up to righties in Saturday's win.

Ivan Nova was brilliant, though this has been nothing new of late.

This time, Nova went the distance for his first career shutout, continuing a run in which the New York Yankees have won 10 of their last 11 home games.

It also continued a run in which Nova has become the Yankees staff ace. He’s 6-2 with a 2.06 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in his last 10 starts, a stretch that started against the same Baltimore Orioles team that he beat on Saturday.

That ERA is a hair below Chris Archer for best in the American League since July 5. Five of Nova’s wins have come in Yankee Stadium.

Here’s a closer look at his performance from a statistical perspective.

The hook
Nova had a dominant curveball in Saturday’s shutout. He threw 38 of them and netted nine outs with the pitch, including five strikeouts.

In his last two starts against the Orioles, they haven’t been able to hit that pitch, making 21 outs and netting only two baserunners against it.

Key to season: Limiting the long ball
In 2012, Nova allowed 28 home runs in 170 1/3 innings. This season, he’s allowed only five home runs in 109 1/3 innings, including one in 50 1/3 innings in his last seven starts.

That has a lot to do with Nova’s pitch location, which we’ve noted in the chart on the right.

Nova has been able to frequently dot the lower third of the strike zone with both his fastball and his curveball in 2013. He got 14 outs and allowed no hits in that area on Saturday, mostly versus the Orioles left-handed bats. Against righties, Nova was able to get outs in the upper part of the zone and above, as shown in the image atop this story.

Staff ace
Nova has a 2.06 ERA in a stretch in which the Yankees other starters are faltering. Everyone else to start for the Yankees since July 5 has a combined ERA of 4.58.

CC Sabathia brings up the back of that group, with a 6.67 ERA in his last 10 starts.

A little help
Nova got some offensive support from Robinson Cano, who reached the 25-homer mark for the fifth straight season.

Cano is the sixth Yankee to have a streak of five straight seasons with 25 or more homers, joining Babe Ruth (14 straight), Lou Gehrig (12), Mickey Mantle (9), Alex Rodriguez (7) and Joe DiMaggio (6).

It was Cano’s 27th career home run against the Orioles, moving him ahead of Alex Rodriguez for the most homers against the O's in the last nine seasons.

Did You Know?
The last Yankees pitcher to throw a shutout allowing three or fewer hits against the Orioles was former Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina in 2003.

David Price changes approach on mound

August, 9, 2013
8/09/13
1:20
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Dustin Bradford/Getty ImagesDavid Price is 5-1 with a 1.57 ERA since returning from the DL on July 2.
David Price returned from the disabled list on July 2 and has been lights out since for the Tampa Bay Rays, striking out 40 while walking just one of the 202 batters he’s faced in seven starts.

How's he doing it?
He’s leaned on his changeup since his return, especially in what are typically “fastball” counts, throwing it much more often on the first pitch and when he’s behind in the count.

Price has also been using it more against right-handed hitters, helping him hold them to a .532 OPS. That's 200 points lower than the major-league average for righties against left-handed pitchers.

Starting Early
How important is strike one? This season, major leaguers are hitting .271 with an .818 OPS and striking out in 16 percent of plate appearances after a 1-0 count. Those numbers plummet to a .222 batting average with a .596 OPS and strike out over a quarter of the time after an 0-1 count.

Price backs that strategy up by continuing to pound the strike zone. He leads the majors with a 73 percent strike rate after getting that first-pitch strike.

This approach has created one bored Tampa Bay bullpen. Price has last nine innings in four of his seven starts since coming off the DL. That's as many nine-inning starts in about a month's time as any other pitcher has had all season.

He’s completed at least seven innings in each of those starts, and is averaging about 92 pitches per outing. That's 11.3 pitches per inning. He’s averaged 3.19 pitches per plate appearance, almost seven percent lower than Ivan Nova, who is second on that list (that’s the same difference between Nova and the pitcher in 25th).

He's had eight starts this season with no walks, already the most in his career.

It's hard to imagine but this version of Price has been more impressive than the 2012 Cy Young version, and that's scary for the rest of the American League as the Rays angle for a return to the postseason.

5 stats to know: Yankees at Rangers

July, 22, 2013
7/22/13
1:19
PM ET

Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsYu Darvish, who makes his return from the DL, struck out an MLB-leading 157 batters prior to the All-Star break, the most since Curt Schilling (186) and Randy Johnson (171) in 2002.
The New York Yankees and Texas Rangers will meet Monday night in the first game of a four-game series in Texas at 7 ET on ESPN/WatchESPN.

Here are five stats our broadcast crew will likely be talking about during Monday night’s game.

1. The American League’s strikeout leader, Yu Darvish, makes his return from the DL after missing just one start.

He’ll hope to get back on track after failing to complete seven innings in each of his past four starts, a stretch over which he’s posted a 4.50 ERA.

Darvish throws a variety of pitches, but his approach against righties and lefties is completely different. He’s mainly a fastball-slider pitcher against righties while lefties can only guess what could be coming.

2. Alex Rodriguez was expected to make his season debut tonight, but instead will remain out of action due to a grade 1 quad strain. This season, Yankees third basemen have combined to hit .220 with only four home runs and 27 RBI, ranking them next-to-last in the majors in each category. In fact, David Adams (now playing in Triple A) was the last New York third baseman to hit a home run, but that came all the way back on May 22.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Yankees have not had fewer than 10 home runs in a season from the third base position since 1996 (six) and they haven’t had fewer than 50 RBI from that position since 1991 (39).

3. Ichiro Suzuki is 7-for-14 in his career against Darvish, with his .500 batting average being the highest of any batter against him (min. 10 at-bats).

Ichiro is two hits shy of becoming the third active player with 2,700 hits, joining teammates Derek Jeter and Rodriguez.

4. The Yankees trail the division-leading Boston Red Sox by seven games entering tonight. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, New York won a league or division title when trailing by seven or more games at any point after the All-Star break only once. That was in 1978 when the team trailed the Red Sox by 14 games and came back to win the AL East.

5. New York has taken the season series from the Rangers in seven of the last nine seasons (tied 4-4 in 2010, lost 4-3 in 2008).

After dropping two of three in the Bronx earlier this year, the Yankees will have to win three of the four games this week to take the season series.

Quick Hitters
• Since rejoining the Yankees rotation, Ivan Nova is 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA in his last two starts, completing eight innings in both appearances (the first time in his career he’s gone at least eight innings in consecutive appearances).

• Robinson Cano is hitting .415 with a .519 OBP over a Yankees season-high 12-game hit streak. He’s also driven in 12 runs in that span, including two in each of the last two games.

• Mariano Rivera has 38 career saves against the Rangers, the most against them by any pitcher, a dozen more than Rollie Fingers, who ranks second.

• The Rangers began the season 19-8 at home, but have gone 8-14 since. Fourteen of the team’s first 17 games post-All-Star break are at home. They haven’t started this stretch in a positive manner as the Baltimore Orioles just completed a weekend sweep.

• Adrian Beltre has hit eight home runs this month, tied with Alfonso Soriano for the most in the majors in July.

Verlander's workload still unmatched

August, 6, 2012
8/06/12
1:42
AM ET

Getty Images
Justin Verlander opposes Ivan Nova when the Tigers host the Yankees on "Monday Night Baseball." Each pitcher is having a surprising season but for different reasons.
The New York Yankees visit the Detroit Tigers on "Monday Night Baseball" (ESPN, 7 ET). Each team’s starting pitcher is having a surprising season -- for different reasons.

Last season Justin Verlander became the 10th pitcher in major league history to win the MVP and Cy Young awards in the same season. He’s not generating the same buzz this season but he’s pitching just as well.

He’s a classic workhorse -- he leads the majors in pitches thrown with 2,483, 62 more than the next-closest pitcher. That might not sound like much, but the difference between first and second is the same as the distance between second and seventh.

This just a season after he threw more than 4,300 pitches, including the postseason, the most by an AL pitcher since 1990.

Although his walk rate is slightly up and his strikeout rate is slightly down, the results have been almost identical. He has improved two important peripherals -- his swing-and-miss percentage and his home run rate.

He’s on pace for only 17 wins this season, which would be tied for the second fewest of his career, but only seven qualified starters have gotten less run support than Verlander (3.41 runs per start).

Opposing Verlander is Ivan Nova, who went 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA in his first full major league season in 2011. He may be 10-5 this season -- thanks in part to the 10th-best run support in the American League, nearly two runs per game more than Verlander -- but the rest of the numbers tell a different story.

Why has his performance dropped? It’s due mostly to his home run rate and his opponents’ batting average on balls in play.

He’s allowing way more fly balls (34 percent, up from 27 percent) and more of them are leaving the park. On top of that, nearly 21 percent of balls in play against Nova have been line drives -- only 12 qualified pitchers have allowed a higher line-drive rate.

The Yankees' defense is partly to blame as well -- his BABIP on ground balls is .255 this season (up from .215 in 2011). Last season the Yankees had -9 defensive runs saved as a team -- this season they’re already at -18.

Nova is throwing his fastball and changeup less and his curveball and slider more often this season. He’s allowed the same exact batting average (.204) this season as last on the breaking pitches, but the fastball/changeup combo has been disastrous. Perhaps those pitches are not as sharp with the decreased usage.

STAT TO WATCH
Ichiro Suzuki has a hit in all 12 games since joining the Yankees, which is tied for the longest hit streak to start a Yankees career in franchise history (according to the Elias Sports Bureau). Don Slaught had a hit in his first 12 games with the team in 1988.

Nova shining behind Yankees' run support

July, 8, 2012
7/08/12
5:39
PM ET
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesAmong active pitchers with 35 career decisions, Ivan Nova has the best win percentage.

Ivan Nova takes the mound Sunday night for the New York Yankees against the Boston Red Sox (ESPN, 8 ET), looking to improve on an already impressive road record (12-1 with a 3.24 ERA in his past 17 road starts). What's more, Nova is 26-7 through the first 50 starts of his career, the third best win percentage in MLB history (and second best since 1900).

Oddly enough, the all-time series between the Red Sox and Yankees at Fenway Park is tied 460-460-4.

Yankees notes

Entering Sunday, the Yankees score 49.7 percent of their runs via home runs, the most in the majors. Since 2011, New York's offense has also been providing ample run support when Nova starts, tallying 5.67 runs per start.

That ranks third in baseball in that span, behind only Derek Holland and Colby Lewis (min. 40 starts). Overall, however, the Yankees are averaging 4.82 runs per game which would be their lowest since the 1992 season (4.52).

New York has struggled in the clutch this year, batting only .231 with RISP and .190 with the bases loaded. Compare that to the past two seasons, when Yankees batters posted a .337 average in 2011 and a .344 average in 2010 with the bases full.

Red Sox notes

Boston, meanwhile, has been suffering from the injury bug. The Red Sox have had 20 different players hit the DL this season, six more than any other AL team. Of those 20, 11 are former All-Stars.

For Jon Lester, the challenge Sunday night will be getting through the third and fourth innings. He’s allowed 28 earned runs in those two innings and 24 in all other innings combined. He's also struggled in his second time through the order, allowing a .293 average. Lester is using his fastball less often the second time facing batters; he's tossing his heater 63 percent of the time in the first plate appearance, but just 51 percent the next time around the order.

The matchup to watch will be Derek Jeter against Lester. Jeter is 17-for-49 (.347 BA) against Lester, the most hits Lester has given up to a batter. Curtis Granderson, on the other hand, has 10 strikeouts in 21 at-bats against Lester.

Yankees look to solve Cobb's changeup

June, 6, 2012
6/06/12
2:51
PM ET
The New York Yankees are on a roll, having won nine of their last 12 games, and are now just a half game back of the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles in the AL East. With a win tonight against the Rays (7:05 ET, ESPN2) and an Orioles loss, the Yankees would retake 1st place for the first time since April 24th. Here are the key storylines tonight:

The Rays offense has been slumping since losing Evan Longoria to injury. Tampa Bay has batted just .221 since May 1st, the second-worst average in the AL in that span. The pitching, however, has been excellent after a very slow start early in the year. After posting a 6.75 ERA over their first nine games of the season, the Rays staff has just a 2.85 ERA since.

Getting the nod for Tampa Bay will be Alex Cobb, who has relied heavily on his changeup so far this season. Cobb has thrown the highest percentage of changeups among all players with at least 200 pitches thrown this season, throwing the pitch over 40 percent of the time and at similar frequencies to both lefties and righties.

It’s been his most effective pitch as he’s located the ball down on over 63 percent of changeups, while getting batters to chase 50 percent of the time when he throws a changeup below the strike zone.

Facing Cobb will be Ivan Nova, who is 3-0 with a 3.26 ERA in his career versus the Rays. Nova has been an interesting case this year; his ERA is at a career-high 5.60, but at the same time, he's raised his K/9 rate to 8.3 after averaging just 5.4 in his first two seasons. He's also lowered his walk rate down to 2.9 BB/9, a career low.

The issue has been that Nova has allowed an inordinate number of hits on groundballs this season. The league averages a .216 BA on all groundballs, but hitters are batting .310 on groundballs against Nova.

AP Photo/Jae C HongAlbert Pujols has five home runs and 10 RBI during the Angels eight-game win streak.
(The Los Angeles Angels host the New York Yankees, Wednesday at 10:05 ET on ESPN.)

There are many reasons we might see a number of home runs Wednesday in Anaheim.

Ivan Nova and Ervin Santana have combined to allow 25 HR this season, and both rank in the top five in the American League in HR allowed per nine innings.

Four Yankees have hit four HR off Santana: Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano. And, Jeter’s career 1.179 OPS against Santana is the highest of his career against any pitcher he has faced (minimum 50 plate appearances).

For the Angels, recent history says Albert Pujols will go deep. He has hit a home run on May 30 in each of the last five seasons. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last player to hit a home run in five-or-more consecutive years on a specific date was Lance Berkman, who hit a home run on Sept. 21 in seven straight seasons, 2001-2007.

In 10 games played on this date, Pujols has hit 10 home runs with 17 RBI and has a batting average of .576 (19-33).

According to Elias, the record for most home runs on a single date is 12, shared by Barry Bonds (Aug. 18), Jimmie Foxx (June 8) and Gil Hodges (May 30).

Pujols played his 50th game of the season on Tuesday, and has set or matched career lows through 50 games in most statistical categories (see chart).

Whether it’s coincidence or not, ever since Mickey Hatcher was fired as Angels hitting coach after May 15, Pujols has bounced back. With Hatcher, Pujols was hitting .212 with one home run and a .536 OPS. Since Hatcher’s firing, Pujols has hit .304 with seven HR and an OPS over 1.000

With Pujols rounding into form, the Angels have won a season-high eight straight games and are above .500 for the first time since Opening Day. The Angels have not had a nine-game win streak since 2005, and are looking for their first home sweep of the Yankees since July 2009.

Ivan Nova has a feel for his slider

May, 2, 2012
5/02/12
12:58
PM ET
(The New York Yankees host the Baltimore Orioles, Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.)

Ivan Nova has won 15 straight decisions, one shy of the franchise record held by Roger Clemens. Nova is 3-0 against the Orioles, with all three wins coming during this streak.

This season, Nova’s tendency has been to feel out his slider and curveball after a couple innings and then pick one to use predominantly. He’s relied heavily on the slider in only one start even though it’s been his most effective pitch.

Batters are missing on 43 percent of swings at Nova’s slider and hitting just .118 on at-bats ending on a slider. On all other pitches, they're hitting .386.

Nova has pitched into the sixth inning in all four starts and has been supported by a bullpen that is tied with the Texas Rangers for the second-best bullpen ERA in the American League. (In Nova's four starts, the Yankees' bullpen has allowed one earned run in 11⅔ innings.)

The AL team with the best bullpen ERA is the Orioles at 1.76. Baltimore started the day one game back of the Tampa Bay Rays for first place in the AL East – thanks in large part to its pitching. After having the worst team ERA in the AL in four of the last 11 seasons, Baltimore's 2.94 team ERA ranks second behind the Rangers in the Senior Circuit.

Baltimore’s bullpen has stranded 85.6 percent of base runners inherited – only the Yankees in the American League have stranded a higher percentage (86.9 percent). Baltimore’s relievers have allowed just four home runs, thanks in part to a league-best 52 percent groundball rate.

They also have four pitchers who have come out of the bullpen, thrown more than eight innings and not allowed an earned run. Luis Ayala, Matt Lindstrom and Jim Johnson have combined for 30⅓ scoreless innings, and Darren O’Day has allowed just one earned run in 12⅔ innings.

The Orioles have had to rely on pitching the first month of the season because the offense has been average: sixth in the league in batting average, tied for sixth in runs and 11th in on-base percentage. One reason the Orioles' on-base percentage is so low is because they strike out at the second-highest rate in the AL and walk at the second-lowest rate.

Baltimore has been able to overcome these deficits by hitting for a lot of power. The Orioles' 32 home runs are third in the AL behind the Yankees (38) and Rangers (36).
Amidst the NFL Draft craziness, the baseball season continues tonight, with the top two finishers in last year's AL Cy Young voting on the mound, looking to continue their hot streaks.

In New York, a Yankee tries to match Roger Clemens’ team record. Plus the Pirates are the first team to accomplish something, and it’s not entirely bad.

Jered Weaver Owns April
The Cy Young runner-up a season ago, Jered Weaver faces the Indians tonight, looking to continue his strong early-season pitching.

Weaver is 13-0 in his last 17 starts in March and April, the longest streak of undefeated starts in March and April since Brad Penny went 17 straight from 2004 to 2008 (thanks, Elias).

The last guy to go undefeated in 18 such starts was Pedro Martinez. The last pitcher to win 14 consecutive decisions in March and April was the always-menacing Dave Stewart, who won 20 straight decisions from 1987 to 1991.

Weaver’s career ERA of 2.66 in March and April is the third-lowest among active pitchers, trailing Mariano Rivera and Zack Greinke.

Pitching Duel in the Bronx
The man who topped Weaver in the 2011 Cy Young voting was Justin Verlander, who is 21-3 with a 1.98 ERA since last June 1.

Verlander’s counterpart on the mound tonight is Ivan Nova, who is 15-1 with a 3.31 ERA in that time span. Nova has won his last 15 decisions, which Elias says is the longest for any pitcher entering a start against a defending Cy Young winner

A win tonight would tie Nova with Roger Clemens for most consecutive decisions won in Yankees history, but he'll need help from an offense that has struggled against Verlander.

Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher all have career averages below .170 against Verlander.

The exception in the Yankees lineup is Derek Jeter, who is 12-33 (.364) in his career against Verlander.

Dead Ball Era in Pittsburgh?
In the National League, the Pittsburgh Pirates are in the midst of a quirky and remarkable run.

Neither team has scored more than five runs in any of Pittsburgh’s first 18 games, the longest streak to start a season in MLB history.

The Pirates are still 13 games away from matching the longest season-opening streak without scoring five runs, which was 31 games by the 1972 Milwaukee Brewers.

Thirty-one games is also the longest season-opening streak of allowing five or fewer runs, accomplished previously by the 1972 Twins. The last team to start with 18 such games was the Athletics in 1981. Pittsburgh looks to best that mark tonight in Atlanta.

Paul Carr contributed to this post.
Stats & Info insights into this morning's top sports stories.

1. LAKERS BEAT THUNDER IN WILD GAME: The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Oklahoma Thunder, 114-106, in double overtime. One of the best games of the season was marred by an incident late in the second quarter. Metta World Peace was ejected after he hit Thunder guard James Harden in the head with his elbow. The Lakers forward has been suspended 13 times, totaling 111 games, in his career.

2. KINGS COMPLETE HUGE UPSET: The Los Angeles Kings shocked the Vancouver Canucks, 2-1, in overtime to win the Western Conference Quarterfinals in five games. According to Elias, Vancouver is the first Presidents' Trophy-winning team to be knocked out in the first round of the playoffs in fewer than six games.

3. YOUNG SEGUIN SAVES THE DAY: The Boston Bruins defeated the Washington Capitals, 4-3, behind the first career playoff OT goal of 20 year-old Tyler Seguin. Each game in this series has been decided by one goal. According to Elias, the Bruins-Capitals series is the first in NHL playoff history in which each of the first six games were decided by a one-goal margin.

4. HAMLIN WINS AT KANSAS: Denny Hamlin won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway. It’s Hamlin’s second win of 2012, and 19th of his Cup Series car. The win also marked the 199th Cup win for the #11 car, making it the winningest car in series history.

5. KENNEDY WINS AGAIN: The Arizona Diamondbacks defeated the Atlanta Braves, 6-4, as Ian Kennedy improved to 3-0 this season. According to Elias, Kennedy has won his last nine regular-season decisions, tying him with Clayton Kershaw for the second-longest current winning streak in the majors, behind Ivan Nova (15).
Stats & Info insights into this morning's top sports stories

1. FLYERS SCORING IN BUNCHES: The Philadelphia Flyers continue to dominate the series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, winning Game 3 by a score of 8-4 to take a 3-0 series lead. Philadelphia has scored 20 goals in the series with 16 coming in the last two games. FROM ELIAS: The last team to score at least 16 goals in consecutive Stanley Cup Playoff games is Wayne Gretzky's Los Angeles Kings in 1993, who scored 18 goals (nine in each) in consecutive games against the Calgary Flames. The Flyers had never scored 16 in consecutive Stanley Cup Playoff games and the Penguins had never allowed 16 in consecutive Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Matt Kemp
Kemp
2. KEMP AND DODGERS CONTINUE HOT START: Matt Kemp hit his sixth homerun of the season as the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the San Diego Padres 5-4. The Dodgers are 9-1 for the first time since 1981 (won the World Series that year) and Kemp has been a big reason why. He’s just the third player to hit six homeruns in the Dodgers first 10 games. FROM ELIAS: Kemp joins Willie Mays, Lou Brock, and Dante Bichette as the only players with at least six homeruns, 16 RBI and a .450 batting average through a team’s first 10 games since RBI became an official stat in 1920.

3. LAKERS RIDE BIG MEN TO WIN OVER DALLAS: Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol each had a 20-point, 10-rebound game to lead the Lakers to an overtime win over the Mavericks. The Lakers are 4-1 without Kobe Bryant this season and swept the season-series with Dallas, winning all four games. FROM ELIAS: The Lakers are the first team since the 2002-03 Nets to sweep a regular-season series after being swept by the same team in the postseason the previous year.

4. PRESIDENTS' TROPHY WINNERS 1 LOSS FROM ELIMINATION: The Los Angeles Kings beat the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks 1-0 in Game 3 to take a 3-0 series lead. Since the NHL went to a best-of-seven format in the quarterfinals in the 1986-87 season, it’s the second time that an 8-seed has a 3-0 series lead over a 1-seed. The last time happened in 1993 when the Blues swept the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks. As for the Canucks: They are the first team to finish the regular season with the best record and lose their first three games of its quarterfinal series according to Elias.

5. PANTHERS END PLAYOFF DROUGHT: FROM ELIAS: The Florida Panthers ended the longest playoff win drought in NHL history with their 4–2 victory against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday night. It was Florida’s first postseason win in two days short of 15 years, since a 3–0 victory over the Rangers on April 17, 1997 in the opening game of a first-round series. The Panthers obliterated the old NHL record for the longest stretch with a playoff win, which was just under 12 years by the Detroit Red Wings, between wins on April 26, 1966 and April 11, 1978.

Ivan Nova
Nova
6. ALL HE DOES IS WIN: Ivan Nova allowed four runs in six innings to get the win as the Yankees beat the Angels. FROM ELIAS: Nova has won his last 14 decisions, tying Whitey Ford and two others for the second-longest streak in New York Yankees history. Nova trails only Roger Clemens, who won 16 decisions in a row in 2001.

Canó, Pujols look to end power outages

April, 15, 2012
4/15/12
4:08
PM ET
Robinson Cano's hits and outs in 2012


The New York Yankees host the Los Angeles Angels in Sunday Night Baseball (8 p.m. ET on ESPN). Let's preview the game by looking at powerless hitters, starting pitching matchups and yet-to-be-seen closers.

Ca’No’ home runs yet
Robinson Cano has yet to hit a home run through the first eight games of the season. Over the last three seasons, Cano had homered at least once within the first three games.

Cano is missing pitches that he usually crushes. From 2009 to 2011, he was among baseball's best mashers against pitches in the strike zone.

The heat maps above show how Cano has gotten his hits and outs this season. He's just 6-for-26 against pitches judged by Pitch F/X to be within the zone.

Cano has twice had to wait as late as his 18th game before hitting his first home run, doing so in both 2005 and 2007.

Albert Pujols still homerless
Albert Pujols
has not yet homered in 32 at-bats this season. The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that's the longest season-opening drought of his career. His previous worst was 27 at-bats in 2008, when he still hit 37 home runs that season.

Jerome Williams Matchups to Watch
Williams developed a pitch that is a cross between a cutter and a slider a few years ago and the pitch proved to be very effective for him during his recall last season.

When Williams is on, he’s able to move the ball down and in to a left-handed hitter, down-and-away to a righty. He rarely throws a pitch to the upper-third of the strike zone and above, rating among the least-frequent throwers to that area in the majors.

Maybe this will be the cure for what ails Mark Teixeira, who has nine home runs and 11 doubles on cutters and sliders from righties since 2009.

Teixeira has been hungry for a right-handed pitcher to throw him a pitch on the inner-third. Of the 99 pitches he’s seen from righties, only 15 have been thrown inside. Teixeira struggled against those pitches last season, but had a good history in previous seasons.

Ivan Nova Matchups to Watch
Nova was hittable for parts of his first start of the season against the Orioles, but was tough when he had to be, holding Baltimore to 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

That might be tougher tonight. The Angels are hitting .294 with runners in scoring position this season.

Most of the Angels have faced Nova only a few times, but the one who has had success is speedy centerfielder Peter Bourjos, who tagged Nova for three ground-ball singles and a home run in his five turns against him.

Nova has won 13 straight regular-season decisions. One more win would tie the second-longest win streak in Yankees history.

End Game
Neither team has used its closer in a save situation yet in this series, so perhaps the time will be right tonight.

Mariano Rivera has a history of issues against the Angels, with a 3.65 ERA, but much of that is from earlier in his career. Rivera has converted his last 14 regular-season save chances against the Angels dating back to 2008.

Angels closer Jordan Walden has appeared in only two of the first eight games of the season. He did save a pair of games against the Yankees last season, striking out four in three innings.

Walden is one of the hardest-throwing pitchers in baseball. He’s thrown 18 fastballs this season and they’ve averaged 98 miles-per-hour.

Again, the best Yankee suited for that is Teixeira, who has six hits and three home runs against 98-plus pitches since 2009. The three home runs (two against Daniel Bard, one against Joel Zumaya) is the most in the majors.

The Yankee who might have the biggest issue is Nick Swisher, who is 1-for-13 in at-bats ending against 98-plus pitches in that span.
The Detroit Tigers were outscored 28-17 in five games, but won the series with two one-run wins and one two-run win. Eleven runs is the biggest run differential for a team that won a League Division Series.

The New York Yankees struggled with runners in scoring position throughout the series. In Game 5, the Yankees were 2-for-9 but did not score on either hit. In the three losses, the Yankees were 3-for-21 with runners in scoring position and left 26 runners on base.

Before leaving the game in the seventh game with a mild oblique strain, Delmon Young became the first Tigers player to hit three home runs in a postseason series. When Don Kelly and Young hit consecutive first-inning pitches out of the park, they became the first Tigers to hit back-to-back postseason home runs.

A tight forearm forced Ivan Nova from the game after two innings. In those two innings, he had recorded six swings-and-misses, a personal record for the first two innings. The Yankees ended up using seven pitchers, tied for the most ever in a winner-take-all postseason game. All four teams to use seven pitchers have lost the game.

Robinson Cano hit a solo home run in the fifth inning to get the Yankees on the board. It was Cano’s eighth career postseason home run. Both of Cano’s home runs in the ALDS came off sliders. Including the postseason, 10 of his 30 home runs came against the slider, the most of any pitch type.

Max Scherzer recorded four outs while serving as the bridge from starter Doug Fister to the Tigers bullpen. Scherzer was able to keep the Yankee hitters off-balance with his changeup. Including the regular season, New York hitters missed on 16 of 36 swings (44 percent) against Scherzer’s changeup. In the ALDS, the Yankees were 0-for-8 with four strikeouts.

Mariano Rivera barely had the opportunity to pitch in the series. He threw five pitches in the ninth inning of Game 5 and just eight for the entire series. That’s the fewest pitches that Rivera has thrown in 32 career postseason series. The Yankees have lost all four series where Rivera threw 28 pitches or less.

Jose Valverde, meet Grover Cleveland Alexander. They are the only two pitchers to finish a road win in a winner-take-all one-run game at Yankee Stadium. Pitching for the Cardinals, Alexander was on the mound when Babe Ruth was caught stealing to end the 1926 World Series.

Alex Rodriguez struck out to end the game and finished the ALDS going 2-for-18 with six strikeouts. It was the second straight year that Rodriguez struck out for the final out of the Yankees season. The Elias Sports Bureau reports that he is the first player to strike out for his team’s final out in consecutive postseasons and the sixth player to make the final out (regardless of type) in two straight postseasons.

Getty Images
Doug Fister (left) and Ivan Nova (right) make their 1st career postseason starts in Game 5.

The 2011 playoffs have not lost any momentum to the exciting finish to the regular season. For only the third year, three Divisional Series will last five games (also in 1981 and 2001), with the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees playing the first of the elimination games.

Divisional Series History
In the Wild Card Era (since 1994), only two teams have won Game 5 of an LDS and gone on to win the World Series: the 2000 Yankees and 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks. This will be the Tigers first Division Series Game 5 in franchise history, while the Yankees are 3-3 all-time in Division Series Game 5’s.

Detroit is 2-1 in winner-take-all games on the road, with their last win coming over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the 1968 World Series. The Yankees are 5-4 in winner-take-all games at home. The last time they played in such a game, they lost of the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS.

On the Mound
Doug Fister and Ivan Nova will both take the mound for their first career postseason STARTS (both began Game 1’s suspension on Saturday in relief roles). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the first time in MLB postseason history that both starting pitchers in a winner-take-all game (Game 5 of 5-game series or Game 7 of 7-game series) will be making their first career postseason starts.

Fister went 4⅔ innings while allowing six earned runs in his Game 1 appearances, the most earned runs he’s allowed since Aug. 14. In his career, Fister is 1-3 with a 7.15 ERA in four career appearances against New York and has not recorded a win against the Yankees since August 16, 2009.

Nova went 6⅓ innings while allowing two earned runs in his Game 1 appearance. Nova is 13-0 with a 3.22 ERA in his last 17 appearances going back to regular season (he has not lost since June 3).

Elias says, Nova will be the third Yankees rookie to start a postseason winner-take-all game. Spec Shea got a no-decision in Game 7 of the 1947 World Series against the Dodgers, and Mel Stottlemyre lost Game 7 of the 1964 World Series against the Cardinals.

Players to Watch
Detroit catcher Alex Avila (.295 batting average in the regular season) is 0-for-12 thus far in the series. According to Elias, since 2005, three players with a regular season batting average of .290 or higher (among batting qualifiers) went hitless in an entire postseason series (minimum 10 at-bats): Bill Mueller in the 2005 ALDS against the Chicago White Sox (0-for-11); Aramis Ramirez in the 2007 NLDS against the Diamondbacks (0-for-12); and Chone Figgins in the 2009 ALDS against the Red Sox (0-for-12).
Derek Jeter
Jeter

New York’s Derek Jeter is 10-for-29 (.345) in winner-take-all postseason games. The Elias Sports Bureau says his 10 hits are tied with Jason Giambi (10-for-18, .556) for the most hits in such games in major league history. Next on the list with nine are Mickey Mantle, Pete Rose, Lonnie Smith, and Gil McDougald.

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