Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Updated: September 13, 3:16 AM ET
Elias Says ...
By Elias Sports Bureau, Inc.
Special to ESPN Insider
A daily glance inside the numbers from the world of sports:
The streak began on Oct. 5, 1991, when the Braves won that year's NL West title by defeating the Astros while the second-place Dodgers lost at San Francisco. Atlanta's winning pitcher: 24-year-old John Smoltz. By the way, at the time of that clinching, a rookie quarterback with the crosstown Falcons had not yet played in his first NFL game -- a fellow named Brett Favre.
• What a night for the Giants! Not only did they earn a 10-6 win over the Rockies -- after having trailed by four runs early -- but the two teams ahead of them in the NL West, the Dodgers and the Padres, both blew leads in one-run losses. And the Marlins, a wild-card rival that had started the night with the same record as the Giants, blew a four-run lead in a loss to the Mets.
• The king is dead, expiring at 12:44 Wednesday morning, when Billy Wagner struck out Miguel Cabrera to finish off the Mets' rain-delayed, 6-4 comeback win over the Marlins in South Florida. That victory eliminated the Braves from contention for the NL East division title -- ending Atlanta's streak of 14 consecutive division titles, the longest in the history of major pro sports in North America. (No division titles were awarded -- properly -- in the 1994 season, terminated early because of a players' strike starting in mid-August.)
In fact, in all six National League games played on Tuesday night, the winning team overcame a significant deficit -- either a deficit of at least three runs or a deficit in the eighth inning or later.
• Justin Morneau's two-run double turned a one-run deficit into a one-run lead in the midst of an eighth-inning rally that left the Twins a 7-5 winner over the A's. It was Morneau's 18th game-winning RBI of the season, tying Alex Rodriguez for the American League lead, and the eighth one of them that came in the eighth inning or later, the most in the majors.
Morneau's two-run double gave him 120 RBI for the season, and he joined Harmon Killebrew as the only players in franchise history -- Washington or Minnesota -- to knock in that many runs while hitting 30 or more home runs. The Killer did it three times, surpassing 40 homers on each occasion (46/122 in 1961, 48/126 in 1962, and 49/140 in 1969).
• Albert Pujols smashed a game-winning two-run double off Brad Lidge in the ninth inning of the Cardinals' 6-5 win over the Astros. It was his fourth walk-off RBI of the season (one behind David Ortiz's major league-leading total of five), and his 10th over the past four years (second in the majors to Ortiz's total of 12).
It was the 23rd game-winning RBI for Pujols this season, five more than anyone else has.
• A seven-run lead wasn't enough for the Dodgers, who let one get away as the Cubs won, 9-8, in 11 innings. It had been eight years to the day since the Dodgers last lost a game in which they had held a lead of seven-or-more runs; they lost, 8-7, at San Diego on Sept. 12, 1998.
It was an exciting win for the Cubs, who hadn't exactly covered themselves in glory earlier in the evening. They committed six errors and became the first major-league team to win a game despite so many errors since the Giants were charged with six errors in a 6-5 win at Montreal on April 29, 1999.
• Craig Monroe had three outfield assists in the Tigers' Tuesday-night triumph. The only other major leaguer to do that this season is Endy Chavez of the Mets, who did it against the Giants in a 12-inning game on June 4. (The last major leaguer with three outfield assists in a nine-inning game was none other than Brandon Inge, against Anaheim on April 27, 2004.)
• Jason LaRue had hit only one walk-off home run in his major-league career -- off Brian Fuentes, more than three years ago. And Doug Brocail had allowed only two walk-off homers -- the most recent being hit by Mike Sweeney in 1997.
But LaRue connected off Brocail in the 11th inning on Tuesday night, providing the winning run in Cincinnati's 5-4 victory.
• Far be it for us to take issue with our colleagues at ESPN.com -- especially the ones who write those capsule headlines that are listed in the upper right section of the home page. Not only do those headlines provide us all with an immediate snapshot of the day's sports news, but they also provide the daily agenda for most sports-radio talk-show hosts across this great land.
But OK, just this once: "Abreu (7 RBI) steals spotlight in Matsui's DL return." Huh? We beg to differ with the idea that anyone stole a spotlight from Matsui in New York's 12-4 win over Tampa Bay. Besides the impact on the team -- yes, Matsui is ready to contribute for the playoffs, while the game itself was mostly an afterthought in a division long since conceded to the Yankees -- there's this statistical item: You have to go back to 1988 to find the last player who went more than 90 days between big-league at-bats in a season and then recorded a game of four-or-more hits in his return. (The guy who did it in 1988 was Lance Johnson, then with the White Sox, who spent most of the time between May 8 and Sept. 19 playing in the minors at Vancouver, rather than being exiled on the DL).
Meanwhile, Abreu was the 161st major leaguer to drive in seven-or-more runs in a game since the date of Johnson's four-hit game.
• Yankees fans were all whipped up on the blogs on Tuesday night -- upset that Joe Torre removed Derek Jeter for a cosmetic pinch hitter in the final stages of the blowout win over the Devil Rays. What was the big deal? Jeter had carried a career-high 21-game hitting streak into that game, and he had collected three walks and a hit-by-pitch in his four plate appearances before young Andy Cannizaro batted for him in the seventh inning.
Not to worry, folks. Serious Yankees fans saw this coming a mile away, and just knew that Torre, coordinator of all things statistical, would not stop the captain's streak prematurely. Baseball rules provide that hitting streaks are not terminated in games in which all of a player's plate appearances result in some combination of walks, hit batsmen, sacrifice bunts or catcher-interference plays.
So Jeter wound up with an unusual batting line -- no at-bats, three walks, three runs. The last major leaguer with at least three runs scored and at least three walks in a no-official-at-bats game was Hee Seop Choi (who had four walks) for Florida vs. Arizona in May 2004.
• Chone Figgins had never had a major-league walk-off RBI until his game-winning single off J.J. Putz on Aug. 20; he collected his second one with a game-winning hit off Bobby Jenks on Tuesday night, as the Angels cut Oakland's division lead to 4½ games -- the closest that Mike Scioscia's team has been to first place since Aug. 23.
• What do 10 strikeouts in the first four innings of a game guarantee? Not much. Mets starter Oliver Perez became only the second major leaguer this season to fan 10 in the first four innings, but he left after five innings (and 11 strikeouts) trailing the Marlins, 4-0.
Cole Hamels had 10 strikeouts in the first four innings of a game against the Braves on July 24. (Hamels was the losing pitcher in a 10-8 Atlanta victory.)