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Sunday, April 8, 2007
Elias Says ...

By Elias Sports Bureau, Inc.
Special to ESPN Insider

A daily glance inside the numbers from the world of sports:

MLB

Albert Pujols
Pujols

Ryan Howard
Howard

• Ryan Howard (149) and Albert Pujols (137) ranked one-two in the majors in RBIs last season (Pujols was tied with David Ortiz), but neither player had driven in a run during the 2007 campaign until Sunday, when they each had a pair of RBIs in the sixth game of the year for their respective clubs.

Over the past 10 years (1997-2006), there were 60 instances of a player driving in at least 130 runs in a season. Ten of those players, including Howard and Pujols, started the next season with a personal streak of at least five straight games without an RBI. The longest such streak among them belonged to Juan Gonzalez for the 2002 Indians (no RBIs in his first 14 games after driving in 140 runs in 2001).

• The Phillies had baserunners galore in their 6-4 loss to the Marlins, collecting 11 walks to go along with seven hits. Over the past seven seasons (2000-2006), only one major league team scored fewer than five runs in a nine-inning loss in which it had at least 11 walks and seven or more hits (Rockies vs. Giants, 7-4, Sept. 20, 2006). The Phillies hadn't lost in such fashion since June 2, 1937 (8-4 vs. Cincinnati).

Scott Kazmir
Kazmir

• Scott Kazmir had eight strikeouts through 2 2/3 innings before finishing with 10 Ks in seven innings in Tampa Bay's 6-3 loss to the Blue Jays. Since the inception of the designated hitter in 1973, only one other American League pitcher has started a game in which the first eight outs he recorded were strikeouts. On May 10, 1986, Ron Guidry fanned nine batters over the first three frames before finishing with 11 strikeouts in seven innings of a 4-3 Yankees win at Texas.

• Salomon Torres notched his fourth save of the season as the Pirates improved their record to 4-2 by salvaging the series finale at Cincinnati. Torres is one of four pitchers to be credited with a save in each of his team's victories this season. The others are Todd Jones (3), Chris Ray (2) and Armando Benitez (1).

• Justin Morneau's three-run homer was all Johan Santana needed to secure the Twins' 3-1 win at Chicago. It marks the second time that Santana has won his first two starts in the season after winning the Cy Young Award; he won his first three starts in 2005. The only other pitchers to twice win their first two starts of a season in defense of that award are Greg Maddux (1994 and 1995) and Randy Johnson (2000 and 2002).

Barry Zito
Zito

• The Dodgers tagged Barry Zito for eight runs in their 10-4 triumph at San Francisco. Zito and Colorado's LaTroy Hawkins are the only pitchers to have already lost two games this year after changing teams during the offseason. But Zito has a history of being slow out of the gate. He posted an 8.59 ERA over his first two starts last season and he had an 11.57 ERA at that juncture in 2005.

• The Orioles posted a 6-4 win at Yankee Stadium, scoring five runs off Darrell Rasner, who lasted only 4 1/3 innings as New York's starter. In each of the Yankees' five games this season their starting pitcher's total of runs allowed was greater than or equal to his innings pitched. That's the longest such streak to begin a season for any team since the 1974 Padres (six games), and it matches the longest start-of-season streak of its kind in Yankees franchise history (once previously, in 1950).

Alex Rodriguez
Rodriguez

• Alex Rodriguez encored his Saturday heroics with a first-inning home run on the first delivery he saw from Erik Bedard. Last season, five players homered in their first plate appearance following a walk-off home run (after no player had done it in either 2004 or 2005). Two of them, like A-Rod, did it on the first pitch: Carlos Beltran and Carlos Guillen.

• Atlanta's Kyle Davies and New York's Scott Schoeneweis both balked during the Braves' victory on Sunday. It had been more than a year since the last National League game in which both teams had a pitcher called for a balk (Reds at Nationals, Aug. 25, 2005). Yes, "Balkin' Bob" Davidson was the home plate umpire in Sunday's Mets-Braves game.

NBA

LeBron James
James

• The Cavaliers' 87-82 loss to the Pistons at Auburn Hills was all but assured after LeBron James missed a pair of free throws in the final minute that could have tied the game. James might not be the guy you want at the line in those situations, but he had recently been on a roll, having made two foul shots with 1:47 remaining on Sunday and 16-of-17 during late-game pressure situations over his previous eight games (with a single-digit lead or deficit in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter or in overtime).

• Dwyane Wade returned to the active roster for Miami for its overtime loss to the Bobcats. The Heat are 8-7 this season with both Wade and Shaquille O'Neal on the court and 1-6 with neither of them. But if you could have only one of them, who would you choose? Miami is 17-15 in games that Wade played without O'Neal and 16-7 with Shaq and no Wade.

Wade scored 12 points in 27 minutes off the bench in his return, ending streaks of 20 consecutive games with at least 20 points and nine in a row with at least 25.

Raja Bell
Bell

• Raja Bell made all six of his 3-point field goal attempts in the Suns' 115-107 victory over the Lakers, becoming the first player to go 6-for-6 or better from beyond the arc in an NBA game this season. Bell tied the franchise's single-game record for most 3-point attempts without a miss, set by Wesley Person (Feb. 21, 1996) and matched by Stephon Marbury (March 4, 2003). Who saw this coming? Bell had missed all 10 of his 3-point attempts on Friday night, the worst single-game performance from that range for any NBA player since Dec. 11, 2004, when Seattle's Ray Allen went 0-for-10 from downtown against the Celtics.

NHL

New York Islanders

• The Islanders earned the two points they needed to qualify for the playoffs with a 3-2 shootout victory over the Brodeur-less Devils in New Jersey. But it wasn't easy. New York could taste a regulation win before John Madden's goal with nine-tenths of a second remaining in the third period knotted the game. It was the first game-tying goal at 19:59 of the third period in the NHL this season. Two players evened the score at 19:58: Miroslav Satan (Islanders vs. Devils) and Ales Hemsky (Oilers vs. Stars).

Sunday's game was only the second in Islanders history, and the first in 26 seasons, in which they allowed a game-tying goal with one second to play. The other was a tie against the Hartford Whalers on Oct. 19, 1980, with the tying goal scored by Dave Keon.

• The Islanders qualified for the playoffs at the expense of Toronto, after the Leafs eliminated Montreal on Saturday night. It marks only the second time that both the Maple Leafs and Canadiens have missed the playoffs in the same season since the NHL took exclusive control of the Stanley Cup in 1926-27.

The only other season in which neither team made the playoffs was 1969-70, when the Canadiens were eliminated on the last day, with another New York team, the Rangers, edging them out. The Rangers bombed Detroit 9-5 in the afternoon (taking 65 shots) before Montreal lost 10-2 at Chicago that night. Needing only a tie or to score five goals to make the playoffs, the Canadiens pulled the goaltender repeatedly in the last half of the third period and Chicago scored five empty-net goals.