Thursday, May 17, 2007
Elias Says ...
By Elias Sports Bureau, Inc.
Special to ESPN Insider
A daily glance inside the numbers from the world of sports:
• Someday, Willie Randolph will tell his grandchildren of the day that his Mets team had to play a 1:10 start the afternoon after finishing a game shortly before 1 a.m. "So I decided to rest as many regular players as I could," Willie will continue. "I had a pitcher (Jason Vargas) making his first start ever with our team, a left fielder (Carlos Gomez) making his third big-league start, a shortstop (Ruben Gotay) who had never before started a game there in the majors, and a 48-year-old man (Julio Franco) hitting fifth and playing third base."
Willie will tell of how his team trailed, 5-1, going to the bottom of the ninth. And then they pecked away at Cubs closer Ryan Dempster: supersub David Newhan and Gomez singled, Carlos Beltran ("I had to use him to pinch-hit for the pitcher; my usual pinch-hitters were all in the lineup," Willie will chuckle) and Endy Chavez walked, and the tying runs were on base with one out. "Then, instead of using David Wright or Jose Reyes to pinch-hit for Gotay, I let the kid hit, and he got an RBI single."
Lou Piniella brought in lefty Scott Eyre to face the Mets' next two hitters, left-handed batters Shawn Green (batting .327) and Carlos Delgado (.211). "That's when I used Wright -- to hit for Green (who was 2-for-22 career vs. Eyre), instead of saving him potentially to hit for Delgado or Franco. Wright singled, and Delgado (3-for-7 previously vs. Eyre) got a two-run single to win the game, 6-5. Kids, everything went right that day. Oh, and you should have seen Lou."
• Randolph rarely has a player as accomplished as David Wright available for pinch-hitting, but the Mets' skipper almost never pinch-hits for any of his eight starting position players. Coming into the day, he had done so only 30 times since the start of the 2006 season, the fewest pinch-hitters for starting position players by any major-league team. And that total of 30 pinch-hitters, of course, includes those used in blowout games or to replace injured players. (By comparison, Tony LaRussa had used 100 such pinch-hitters; Ozzie Guillen had used 146.)
• An Elias note that has already been reported widely is that the Mets' last win after trailing by four-or-more runs in the ninth inning or later came in 1999. In that game, Curt Schilling, then with the Phillies, took a 4-0 lead into the last of the ninth and was left in the game as New York rallied for five runs and a 5-4 victory. (The Phillies manager that day who left Schilling in? Terry Francona.)
• It had been a while since Lou Piniella had been forced to stomach a loss in a game in which his team led by at least four runs in the ninth inning (or later). His last such loss came on Aug. 5, 2001 in Cleveland; after leading 12-0 early in the game, Seattle took a 14-9 lead into the last of the ninth, but the Indians scored five in the ninth and one in the eleventh to take a 15-14 decision.
• The Red Sox won both ends of their Cole Porter affair -- night and day -- against the Tigers, and reached the 40-game mark with a 28-12 record and a 9½-game lead over the Yankees.
Boston's pitchers have allowed only 136 runs in 40 games. Only twice in the American League's DH era (that is, since 1973) have teams won at least 28 of their first 40 games while allowing as few runs as have the Red Sox. The 1984 Tigers started 35-5, with 120 runs allowed, and the 1990 Athletics started 28-12 with 130 runs allowed.
• Manny Ramirez, Kevin Youkilis and Alex Cora all produced hits with two outs and runners in scoring position for the Red Sox on Thursday. Over the team's last 11 games (nine wins, two losses), Boston hitters are batting .444 (28-for-63) in those situations.
• The Yankees will arrive at Shea Stadium for the start of a three-game series with the Mets trailing the Red Sox by 9½ games in the American League East. It's the most games behind that the Yankees have been out of first place since Sept. 6, 1997, when they trailed the first-place Orioles by 9½ games (but nonetheless held a six-game lead in the Wild Card race).
The Yankees have not faced a double-digit games-behind deficit since Joe Torre took over as the team's manager in the 1996 season.
• Who's the opposite of a vampire? Jon Garland, who does his best work during the daytime. Garland defeated the Yankees on Thursday afternoon, and he has now won his last 11 daytime decisions dating back to 2005, the longest current day-game winning streak in the major leagues.
• Garland allowed one run over seven innings in beating the Yankees. It was the 22nd consecutive game in which the White Sox have seen their starting pitcher go at least six innings -- the longest streak by any major-league team since the Astros had a 22-game streak two years ago.
• Fausto Carmona and Johan Santana went at it again at Jacobs Field on Thursday afternoon, and Carmona again came out on top, throwing a four-hit shutout in a 2-0 win. We heard some folks express surprise at that result, but Carmona has now won his last five starts dating back to April 24, the most wins among major league pitchers since that date.
Think about Carmona's turnaround. Prior to beating Santana on April 24, Carmona's major-league career won-lost record was 1-11. Since April 24, five starts and five wins. You have to go back more than 90 years to find the last big-leaguer to win five straight starts after starting the streak with fewer than five career wins and a record at least 10 games below .500. The last such player also pitched for Cleveland: Guy Morton won five straight starts in 1915 after owning a 1-14 career record prior to the streak. (Morton finished his career 10 games above .500, at 98-88.)
Carmona became just the second pitcher to defeat Santana twice within 30 days' time in head-to-head starts. In 2002, Tim Wakefield defeated Santana on August 11 and again six days later.
• Livan Hernandez led the Diamondbacks to a 3-1 win over the Rockies in Coors Field, and Arizona took the series, two games to one.
The teams produced a total of only 15 runs in those three games. (Arizona won, 3-0, on Tuesday, and Colorado took Wednesday's game, 5-3.) Get this: There have been 224 three-game series in the 13-year history of Coors Field; the Diamondbacks and Rockies tied the record for the fewest runs scored in a three-game series in that building. In July of last year, the Rockies and the Cardinals scored 15 runs over three games.
• Ask 21-year-old Delmon Young how he'd celebrate the Devil Rays' 8-6 win over the Rangers and he might have answered that he's going to Disney World -- except that he was already there. The Rays swept the Rangers in the three-game series played about 90 miles from St. Petersburg.
Young belted two home runs, including a walkoff blast in the 10th inning, driving in five of Tampa Bay's eight runs. He became only the third player in major-league history to have a multi-home run game, including a walkoff, before his 22nd birthday. Buddy Bell did that in 1973 with Cleveland and Ruben Sierra turned the trick with Texas in 1987.
Young's game-winning home run was given up by Willie Eyre, the brother of Scott Eyre, who allowed Carlos Delgado's walkoff hit at Shea Stadium earlier in the day.
• The pesky Nats again came from two runs down to defeat the Braves, 4-3. Washington won only one of the first 23 games in which it trailed by two-or-more runs this season, but has now won three of the last four such games, including two in a row against Atlanta.
• The Pistons' 95-85 win in Chicago vaulted them into the conference finals for a fifth consecutive year, becoming the first NBA team to do that since the Bulls had five straight trips to the conference finals from 1989 to 1993.
• Chauncey Billups -- the Mariano Rivera of the NBA -- was at his best controlling the ball in the final stages of the Pistons' victory. Billups made all 14 of his free-throw attempts in the game, including six in the last two minutes of the game.
It was the third playoff game in which Billups has made at least 14 free throws without a miss, and that tied an NBA record. Two other players had three such playoff games: Dolph Schayes with the Syracuse Nationals in the 1950s and Kevin Johnson with Phoenix from 1989 to 1992.
• The Red Wings entered Game Four in Anaheim having not permitted a goal in their last two road games (Game Six at San Jose and Game Three at Anaheim). But the Ducks scored three times in the first period against Dominik Hasek and went on to win, 5-3.
It was the first time that Hasek had allowed three goals in a period in a playoff game since May 16, 1999, when Hasek played for the Sabres and allowed three goals in the second period to the Bruins.