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DURANT'S 4TH-QUARTER SURGE HELPS THUNDER NAIL DOWN WIN
From Elias: Kevin Durant scored 36 points, including 18 in the fourth quarter, as the Thunder held on for a 109-103 win over the Spurs. Only two other players scored as many as 18 fourth-quarter points in a playoff game against the Spurs during the Popovich-Duncan era: Goran Dragic of the Suns scored 23 of his 26 points in the final period of a Suns victory in a 2010 conference semifinal series; and Deron Williams of the Jazz scored 18 in the fourth quarter of a loss to the Spurs in the 2007 Western Conference Finals.
IBAKA CAN'T MISS IN GAME 4 VICTORY
From Elias: If there are degrees of perfection, then it's reasonable to argue that Serge Ibaka's 11-for-11 shooting on Saturday night was not quite perfect enough to earn a spot in the NBA record book. Only two other players made more than 10 field goals without a miss in an NBA playoff game: Larry McNeill of the Kansas City-Omaha Kings was 12-for-12 in a victory over the Bulls in 1975; and Scott Wedman of the Celtics made all 11 of his field-goal attempts in the opening game of the NBA Finals against the Lakers in 1985.
DICKEY'S PERFORMANCE IS A WORTHY SUCCESSOR
From Elias: To expect a second straight Mets no-hitter after a half-century without one would have been unrealistic. But R.A. Dickey's seven-hit shutout in a 5-0 victory over the Cardinals on Saturday was a worthy follow-up to Johan Santana's historic no-hitter. It had been 20 years since any pitcher tossed a complete-game shutout in the immediate wake of a teammate's no-hitter, with Pedro Astacio being the last pitcher to do so. Astacio pitched a six-hit shutout over the Mets in August 1992, one day after his Dodgers teammate Kevin Gross no-hit the Giants.
But if you think that's impressive, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Dickey extended his winning streak to three straight starts, a rather humble run of success ... unless you consider that he struck out 30 batters and walked only one in those games. Only six other pitchers in major-league history posted wins in three straight starts, recording at least 30 strikeouts and walking fewer than two batters. That impressive list includes not only the aforementioned Santana, but also Walter Johnson, Bert Blyleven, Frank Tanana, Mike Mussina, and Pedro Martinez, who did it twice.
CONRAD SNAPS HITLESS STREAK WITH A FLOURISH
From Elias: One swing of the bat, no matter how productive, probably can't erase the sting of a long hitless streak to start a season. But few players (and fewer sportswriters) would know for sure. One player who could tell us would be Brooks Conrad, whose first hit of 2012 was a two-run homer that snapped his season-long 0-for-27 streak - about as rare an occurrence as you'll find. Conrad was the first player to end a start-of-season hitless streak that long with a homer since Orioles pitcher Dave McNally snapped his 41-AB drought with a home run in 1968.
SANTOS ATONES FOR ERRORS IN BEST POSSIBLE WAY
From Elias: Redemption takes many forms. But it's fair to say that several generations of baseball fans have never seen anything like Omir Santos' transformation from defensive liability to offensive hero in the Tigers' 4-3 win over the Yankees on Saturday night. Santos delivered a game-winning sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth after committing an error in each of the last two innings. He was the first player in the expansion era, dating back to 1961, with a walk-off blow to erase the memory of errors in each of the final two frames.
RAMIREZ TAKES DOWN HAMELS
From Elias: Hanley Ramirez hit a pair of home runs in the Marlins' 5-4 win over Cole Hamels and the Phillies. Ramirez was the first player to homer twice in one game off Hamels since 2008, when Carlos Delgado did it for the Mets. Hamels made 109 starts in the interim.
Hamels was charged with the loss on Saturday after the Phillies took a 3-0 lead over the first three innings. Hamels came into the game with a 58-1 record when staked to a lead of three or more runs.
VOTTO CONTINUES HIS SURGE
From Elias: Joey Votto went 4-for-4 with a home run in the Reds' 12-9 win at Houston. Votto raised his batting average to .345, extending a surge during which he has produced 18 hits in his last 30 at-bats. That's the highest hit total over a span of 30 ABs by a Reds player since Todd Walker compiled a 19-for-30 streak in September 2002.
STINGY BULLPEN IS STRASBURG'S SECRET WEAPON
From Elias: Stephen Strasburg pitched seven scoreless innings and the Nationals bullpen preserved his victory in the Nationals' 2-0 win over the Braves. With Strasburg under a severe pitch-count watch, Washington's relievers have been an important part of his success. He improved his record to 6-1, thanks in no small part to a relief staff that has compiled a 1.30 ERA in Strasburg's starts this season.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME FOR PAGAN
From Elias: Angel Pagan extended his home-game batting streak to 26 games with an infield single in the Giants' 2-1 victory over the Cubs. Pagan played most of his career with pitcher-friendly Citi Field as his home and he now faces a similar challenge at AT&T Park. Nevertheless he has a career batting average that is 46 points higher at home (.305) than on the road (.259). Among active players with at least 1,000 at-bats in both home and road games, only six have a greater edge at home and three of those spent at least part of their career with the Rockies, playing home games at Coors Field.
O'S CALL ON MATUSZ TO HALT LOSING STREAK
From Elias: Brian Matusz continued to build an impressive resume as a stopper of losing streaks, allowing two hits and one run over seven and one-third innings in the Orioles' 2-1 victory over the Rays. That win snapped Baltimore's six-game losing streak, and it improved Matusz's career record to 7-2 with a 3.66 ERA in 14 starts with the O's having lost at least three in a row (3-0, 3.00 in four such starts against Tampa Bay).
ABREU FINALLY OPENS HIS 2012 HOME-RUN ACCOUNT
From Elias: Bobby Abreu hit his first home run of the 2012 season on his 92nd at-bat as the Dodgers posted a 6-2 win over the Rockies. This was only the second season since 2000 in which Abreu failed to homer within his first 30 ABs of a season. He didn't hit a home run until his 148th at-bat in 2009, but he finished that season with 15 homers and 103 RBIs.
MARINERS TOPPLE ANOTHER DIVISION-LEADER
From Elias: The Mariners continued their unexpected mastery over some of the AL's best teams, rallying from a two-run deficit to defeat the White Sox, 10-8, in 12 innings. It was Seattle's fifth victory over a first-place team in the past two weeks, having topped Texas four times in late May; and it was the Mariners' third come-from-behind win of the season against an opponent in sole possession of first place in its division. Seattle had only one such victory during the entire 2011 season.
A'S GET OFFENSIVE CONTRIBUTION FROM UNUSUAL SOURCE
From Elias: It all finally clicked for the A's on Saturday, as they routed the Royals, 9-3, to snap a nine-game losing streak. You know it's a good day when even the pinch-runners are contributing to the attack, as Adam Rosales did with a two-run single one inning after he entered the game to run for Jemile Weeks. It had been nearly four years since an A's pinch-runner stuck around to drive in two or more runs in the game. Rajai Davis did that twice in 2008 after no Oakland player had done so in any of the previous seven seasons.
A TRIPLE SHORT OF A CYCLE? PUH-LEEEZE
From Elias: Here we go again. According to wire service stories from coast to coast, Nick Punto "fell a triple shy of a cycle" in the Red Sox' 7-4 victory at Toronto. Considering how infrequent triples are, that's like saying a bowler fell one pin short of converting a 7-10 split, no?
Punto's home run, his first of 2012, matched his total in each of the three previous seasons, which seems a reasonably interesting angle to us. But our cycle-obsessed media seem unable to label a single, double, and homer as anything but a "triple short of a cycle" - despite the fact that these triple-deprived near-cycles are virtually an everyday occurrence. Punto's near-cycle without a triple was the 63rd of its type on the 62nd day of play this season. Last season there were 226 players who fell "a triple short of a cycle" on 179 days of play. C'mon, guys, you're better than that. Are these everyday non-stories really worth mentioning, let alone being used as the lead?
KINGS GAME 2 WIN HAS A FAMILIAR LOOK
From Elias: The Kings took a two-games-to-none lead in the Stanley Cup Final with a second straight 2-1 overtime win over the Devils. This is the third time in in NHL history that each of the first two games of the Final went to overtime. The others were in 1951 when Toronto defeated Montreal 4-1 and all five games went into OT, and in 1946 when Montreal won the first two games in OT against Boston.
This is the seventh consecutive season in which a team has taken a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Final. But Los Angeles is the first of those seven teams to do so with a pair of wins on the road.
POWER OUTAGE IN STANLEY CUP FINAL
From Elias: For only the third time in the last 60 years, there were no power-play goals in the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final. The other such series were Islanders-Oilers in 1983, and Rangers-Canucks in 1994.