Elias Says: July 25, 2017

Altuve the Amazing

Jose Altuve went 4-for-4, lifting his batting average to .365 and extending his hitting streak to 16 games, as the Astros slogged through a rain delay to take a 13-4 decision in Philadelphia. Altuve moved to within four points of the major leagues’ leading hitter, Justin Turner (.369), and he tied Bryce Harper for possession of the longest current hitting streak in the majors.

But we may have buried the lede; in this case, the context is everything. After going 1-for-4 against the Yankees to start his hitting streak on July 2, Altuve has collected an amazing total of 37 hits in 68 at-bats over his last 15 games. Only one major-league player over the last 34 seasons has produced as many as 37 hits over a span of 15 games within a season. That was Ichiro, who did it within a few overlapping 15-game spans in the summer of 2004, with his highest total being 39 hits in 74 at-bats over his 15 games from July 19 to August 3. Prior to Ichiro, the last player with as many as 37 hits over 15 games had been Rod Carew in 1983; Carew’s best 15-game stretch produced 39 hits in 71 at-bats early that year.

But if you look at the statistics in the preceding paragraph carefully, you will note that, remarkable as the streaks of Ichiro and Carew were, in each case, those players accumulated more at-bats over their 15-game spans than did Altuve. To find the last major-leaguer who generated a 15-game span in which he accumulated at least 37 hits over 68-or-fewer at-bats, you have to go back to a great run by the great Rogers Hornsby—the man with a lifetime batting average of .358, second in MLB history only to Ty Cobb—in July of 1923. Over 15 games from July 4 to July 18 of that season, Hornsby amassed 37 hits over 62 at-bats.

Stanton the Spectacular

Giancarlo Stanton blasted a pair of home runs, his 31st and 32nd this season, as the Marlins blanked the Rangers, 4-0, in Arlington. For Stanton, who tied Aaron Judge for the major-league home-run lead, it was the seventh multiple-homer game this season, extending his Marlins record, and giving him the lead in that category over Cody Bellinger, who has six such games. Stanton has now hit 11 home runs in his 55 at-bats since July 5, becoming the first major-leaguer this season to hit as many as 11 homers over a stretch of 55 at-bats, though Gary Sanchez did it last August.

That’s one giant leap for Beltre

Adrian Beltre went 4-for-4 against the Marlins on Monday evening, increasing his career hits total from 2989 to 2993. Beltre became just the third player since 1900 to leap past the 2990-hits mark by means of a game in which he collected four-or-more hits. In 2001, Rickey Henderson, like Beltre, had a four-hit game that lifted his career total to 2993 hits; and in 2015, Alex Rodriguez’s four-hit game boosted his career total to 2991.

Bellinger hits a homer unlike any in MLB this season

Cody Bellinger reached Taylor Rogers for a three-run homer on an 0-2 pitch in the eighth inning, turning a 4-3 deficit into a 6-4 lead, the same score by which the Dodgers went on to dispatch the Twins. It was the major leagues’ first lefty-on-lefty, 0-2-pitch, go-ahead homer in the sixth inning or later this season. The blow was Bellinger’s 28th home run of the season, and of his big-league career, and it came in his 80th game. He tied Jose Abreu for the second-highest homer total over a player’s first 80 big-league games (Abreu did it three years ago); Rudy York set the record with 30 homers over his first 80 games with the Tigers back in the 1930s.

Greinke joins Boomer Wells (in the record books, that is)

Zack Greinke knocked in the game’s first run with a second-inning double and the rout was on, as the Diamondbacks rolled to a 10-2 victory over the visiting Braves. Greinke, 12-4 this season, is now 10-0 in 12 starts at Chase Field, becoming the first Arizona pitcher ever to start a season 10-0 at home. That isn’t to say that this is the first time that Greinke has done such a thing. Indeed, he went 10-0 in his first 12 home starts while pitching for the Brewers in 2011. Only one other pitcher in major-league history went 10-0 or better over his first 12 home starts of a season more than once: David Wells did it with the Tigers (8-0) and Reds (2-0) in 1995 and with the Yankees in 1998.

deGrom ties Mets record first set by Seaver in 1969

Jacob deGrom earned his eighth victory in his last eight starts, surviving by a hair’s breadth a would-be game-winning, three-run homer by Jabari Blash off Addison Reed that sliced foul just before hitting the pole, as the Mets won, 5-3, in San Diego. On a team whose historical footprint has been its legacy of terrific pitchers, deGrom tied the single-season franchise record for wins in consecutive starts. Tom Seaver (1969), David Cone (1988) and Bobby Jones (1997) now share that mark with deGrom. (Frank Viola won nine straight starts spanning the 1989 and 1990 seasons.)

The victory was the 12th of the season for deGrom, as he tied Chris Sale, Jason Vargas and Zack Greinke, who earned his 12th win within minutes of deGrom on Monday night, for the second-highest total in the majors, behind Clayton Kershaw (15). DeGrom is now 9-2 in 14 starts following a Mets loss this season, the most wins for any major-league pitcher in starts following a team loss.

Paxton 5-0 in 5 July starts

James Paxton won for the fifth time in five starts during the month of July, limiting the Red Sox to four hits and striking out a season-high total of 10 batters over seven innings in the Mariners’ 4-0 victory. Paxton is the only pitcher in the majors whose July scorecard reads “five starts, five wins”; notably in this season of long balls, Paxton has not permitted a circuit clout in any of those starts. The last two wins came at the expense of first-place teams, the Astros and the Red Sox.

Perez’s 2nd extra-inning HR this month

Salvador Perez led off the 12th inning at Detroit with a home run, providing what would prove to be the winning run in the Royals’ 5-3 victory. Perez has always been a good hitter in extra innings—his career batting average over 54 at-bats is .370—but prior to this month, he had never gone yard in extra time. But he homered off Seattle’s James Pazos on July 5 and connected off Drew VerHagen on Monday night. Kansas City owns a 25-13 won-lost record since June 10, yielding a winning percentage of .658, the second-highest in the majors over that span (the Dodgers have played .842 ball since June 10).

It was Perez’s 20th home run this season, his third straight year reaching the 20-homer mark. He became the first Royals player with three consecutive 20-homer seasons since Carlos Beltran did just that from 2001 to 2003.

Nothing suspicious about this Leake

Mike Leake threw seven scoreless innings, lowering his ERA to 3.20, as the Cardinals defeated the Rockies, 8-2. That performance temporarily lifted Leake into the major leagues’ top 10 in ERA. We say “temporarily” because later in the evening, James Paxton tossed seven scoreless innings against Boston and reached the qualifying level of at least one inning pitched for every game his team had played. (Paxton’s status as a qualifier is tenuous; he’ll doubtless lose it when his team plays, and he doesn’t, on Tuesday night.)

But while the 10 pitchers on that top-10 ERA list have a collective won-lost record of 106-40 (.726), Leake’s effort on Monday night boosted his own won-lost record to 7-8 (.467).

Vote for Tomlin: he sees a problem, he remedies it

Josh Tomlin successfully remedied a season-long issue while allowing only two runs over six innings of the Indians’ 6-2 victory over the visiting Reds. Tomlin’s biggest problem this year has been regularly surrendering hits in key situations: Opponents came into Monday night’s game having batted .395 (32 for 81) with runners in scoring position, the second-highest average allowed in those situations (minimum: 75 plate appearances) by any major-league pitcher. (Only Bartolo Colon, at .452, had yielded a higher average in those situations.) But against Cincinnati, Tomlin solved the issue in a complete and effective manner—he simply didn’t face any Reds hitters with a runner on either second or third base! In fact, neither did either of Tomlin’s relief pitchers.

Tomlin struck out six consecutive Reds batters, a career high for him, over the second, third and fourth innings. It was the longest strikeout streak for an Indians pitcher in any game this season, and the longest since Carlos Carrasco set down six straight batters on strikes on June 30 of last year.

It’s official: McCutchen is back

Andrew McCutchen knocked in the game’s first run in the opening inning and added a three-run homer in the second to lead the Pirates to a 10-3 triumph at San Francisco. McCutchen was batting .205 coming into the game of May 27, but in 50 games since then, he has batted .376 (67-for-178) with 12 homers and 41 RBIs. It’s the second-highest batting average in the majors since May 27 (Jose Altuve owns a .434 mark). And as if to supply the evidence that ’Cutch is back, we note that only one Pirates player in the past 15 years had a 50-game stretch in which he batted at least .375 with 12 homers and 40 RBIs; that player was McCutchen himself in the 2012 season.

Engel & Davidson connect in Wrigley debut, Sox end losing streak

Adam Engel’s home run snapped a 1-1 tie in the sixth inning and Matt Davidson’s round-tripper added the final run in the eighth as the White Sox travelled to the north side and snapped their nine-game losing streak with a 3-1 victory over the Cubs. Making the day even more memorable for Engel and Davidson, each was playing in his first game at Wrigley Field. The White Sox had played 54 previous games at the corner of Clark and Addison, during which only three of their players homered while appearing in their first game within The Friendly Confines (Mark Johnson in 1999, Miguel Olivo in 2003 and Anthony Ranaudo last year).

Davidson’s homer was his 19th of the season, third-highest in the majors among rookies, behind All-Stars Aaron Judge (32) and Cody Bellinger (28). But it was just Davidson’s second in his last 22 games.

Gausman is rousing

Kevin Gausman blanked the Rays over seven innings and three relievers completed the shutout as the Orioles won in St. Petersburg, 5-0. Gausman, whose ERA stood at 6.47 after a loss on June 21, has pitched scoreless ball in three of his six starts since then and allowed only one run in another. That total of four starts allowing no more than one run since June 27 ties Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber and Mike Clevinger for the highest in the majors over that stretch. Gausman lowered his season ERA to 5.79, which is still the second-highest among the 30 major-league pitchers who started season openers this year (and Jon Gray, with a 6.19 ERA, has made only seven starts for Colorado after missing two and one-half months due to injury).

Rare production from Blue Jays catcher

Russell Martin homered in the first inning and singled during a run-scoring rally in the seventh to help the Blue Jays to a 4-2 victory over the Athletics. A good night, sure, but not the type of night on which we would regularly comment in “Elias Says.” Except that in this case, any kind of production from Toronto’s catchers is worthy of note. Even after Martin’s performance on Monday, Jays catchers are batting .171 and slugging .288 this season. Those are the lowest averages in both of those categories for any of the 255 positions by major-league teams (excluding pitchers’ batting in both leagues and National League DHs, of course).