Special to ESPN.com
SPURS TAKE HORNETS TO GAME 7
The Spurs' 99-80 victory over the Hornets made it six for six in their conference semifinal series: not just home-team wins, but home-team wins by double-digit margins. It's the first series in NBA playoff history in which the home team has won each of the first six games by margins of 10-or-more points.
TRIO COMES UP BIG IN GAME 6
Manu Ginobili scored 25 points, Tim Duncan scored 20, and Tony Parker contributed 15 in the Spurs' must victory. It was the 69th playoff game in which those three teammates had each scored 10-or-more points, now the highest total among active teammates. (The Detroit troika of Richard Hamilton, Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace has done it 68 times.)
WEBB MOVES TO 9-0
Brandon Webb made it nine wins in nine starts this season, though he had a few anxious moments as the bullpen staggered but eventually preserved Webb's and the Diamondbacks' 8-5 victory over the Rockies. Webb became only the sixth major leaguer in the post-war era - and in this case, we're talking about the first World War - to win his first nine starts in a season.
Andy Hawkins was the last to do so, winning his first 10 starts for the 1985 Padres. Prior to that, Sal Maglie won his first nine starts for the New York Giants in 1952; Atley Donald did the same for the 1939 Yankees; George Uhle won his first nine starts for the 1929 Tigers; and Eddie Cicotte, en route to Black Sox infamy, won his first 12 starts in 1919.
To earn his ninth win, Webb (8-0, 2.41 ERA entering the game) had to beat Aaron Cook (6-1, 2.26 coming into Thursday night). Over the past two seasons (2006-07), there was only one matchup of pitchers with records at least five games above .500 and ERAs below 2.50: Jake Peavy vs. Brad Penny last June 30.
In fact, there have been only two such matchups this early in the year during the live-ball era: Bob Knepper (Astros) vs. Bob Ojeda (Mets) on May 14, 1986; and Jim Palmer (Orioles) vs. Vida Blue (A's) on May 9, 1971.
START SPREADIN' THE NEWS...
The Yankees slipped into last place in the American League East by virtue of their loss to the Rays and Toronto's win over the Twins. It's the first time that the Yankees have resided in sole possession of last place in their division this many games (42) into a season since 1995 (Buck Showalter's final year in their dugout), when the team stood in last place (20-29) through games of June 20. (That team bounced back to win the Wild Card spot in the playoffs.)
The Yankees (now 20-22) will host the Mets (20-19) on Friday night, as interleague play begins. It will be the first time that the teams have ever met in regular-season competition when their combined won-lost record entering the game stands below .500.
INDIANS' STARTERS: 50.1 INNINGS WITHOUT ALLOWING EARNED RUN
Aaron Laffey went seven strong, allowing only one run - an unearned run on his own error - as Cleveland's starting pitchers extended to 50.1 innings their streak without allowing an earned run. That's the longest such streak for the Tribe's starting pitchers since the American League began computing earned runs back in 1913.
We're thinking of just turning the column over to Lance Berkman, because the Astros' first baseman's bat speaks loudly every day. On Thursday, Lance had two hits, three RBIs and a ninth-inning homer that broke a 7-7 tie and provided Houston with the winning run in its 8-7 victory at San Francisco.
That left Berkman at 29-for-50 with seven home runs and 18 RBIs in his first 13 games in May. Only five other major leaguers in the post-World War II era have enjoyed a 13-game stretch at any point of a season in which they amassed 29 hits and seven home runs: Chipper Jones in 2006; Richard Hidalgo with the Astros in 2000; Ivan Rodriguez, with Texas, in 1999; Kent Hrbek of the Twins in 1986; and obscure Red Sox outfielder Lu Clinton (career batting average: .247) who, in 1962, had a 13-game stretch in which he had 30 hits and nine home runs.
PIRATES' COMEBACK WIN AT ST. LOUIS
The Cardinals jumped to a 5-1 led over the Pirates on Thursday, but Pittsburgh's 6-7-8 hitters led a comeback that produced an 11-5 victory. The last time that the Pirates won a game in St. Louis after having trailed by four-or-more runs - and mind you, they have played in the same division ever since divisional play began - was nearly 24 years ago, on Sept. 14, 1984, when Chuck Tanner's Pirates had a comeback 8-7 win over Whitey Herzog's Cardinals. Hall-of-Famer-to-be Bruce Sutter was the losing pitcher in that one.
DEMPSTER DOES IT ALL
Ryan Dempster struck out 12 and broke a scoreless tie with a sixth-inning RBI single off Greg Maddux, propelling the Cubs to a 4-0 win over the Padres. Dempster joined the short list of pitchers who were credited with game-winning RBIs in double-digit strikeout games - only two guys had done it in the previous seven seasons (Javier Vazquez in 2003 and Jake Peavy in 2005).
The last Cubs pitcher to cash that daily double was the guy who saved Thursday's game; namely, Kerry Wood, who did it as a rookie against the Reds in 1998. And the last major leaguer credited with the game-winning RBI in a game in which he had as many strikeouts (12) as Dempster was the guy who lost Thursday's game; namely, Maddux, who fanned 13 and had a game-winner in a game at Montreal in September 2000.
HAMELS BLANKS BRAVES
Cole Hamels, at 24, turned in his first big-league shutout, a 5-0 decision over the Braves. The last Phillies lefty to shutout the Braves was at the opposite end of the age spectrum: Jerry Koosman, then 41, blanked the Braves, 7-0, on July 8, 1984. (Koosman is the only 40-or-older pitcher in Phillies history to throw a shutout; he had two of them.)
CHIPPER RESTS AT .418
It's not often that someone who does not play makes "Elias Says", but then, Chipper Jones isn't just anyone. Jones sat out with a groin injury on Thursday, and thus maintained his .418 batting average through the Braves' 40th game of the season. That's the highest batting average by any big leaguer through his team's first 40 games of a season since Colorado's Larry Walker stood at .419 in 1999.
RAYS HOLD YANKS TO 6 RUNS OVER 4 GAMES
The Rays downed the Yankees, 5-2, in St. Petersburg, and completed their four-game series having surrendered a total of only six runs to the Bronx Bombers. Only one other time over the last 40 seasons (1969-2008) have the Yankees been held to so few runs in a series of at least four games. That happened in August 1975, when the Angels, led by starters Nolan Ryan, Frank Tanana, Bill Singer and Ed Figueroa, limited the Yankees to six runs in a four-game series.
JETER REACHES 2,400 HITS
Derek Jeter had two hits in Thursday's game to reach 2,401 for his big-league career. Over the last 50 years, only two players were younger than Jeter (33 years, 324 days as of Thursday) when they reached 2,400 career hits: Hank Aaron in 1966 (32 years, 198 days) and Robin Yount in 1988 (33 years, 8 days). What about Pete Rose? The all-time leader in hits reached the 2,400-hit mark in 1975 at age 34 (three months older than Jeter is now).
KAZMIR'S 100TH START
Scott Kazmir earned a victory over the Yankees in the 100th start of his career as he became the first pitcher to reach 100 starts for the Rays in the team's 11-year history. By way of comparison, the Diamondbacks (Tampa Bay's 1998 expansion cousins) have had five pitchers start at least 100 games (Randy Johnson, Brandon Webb, Brian Anderson, Miguel Batista and Curt Schilling).
None of the major leagues' 13 other expansion franchises went nearly as long as the Rays before having a pitcher start at least 100 games. All but Colorado had a pitcher do it within the team's first five seasons. (Pedro Astacio was the first for the Rockies, in their eighth season.)
BIRON LEADS FLYERS TO GAME 5
The Flyers took the ice trailing in a playoff series, three games to none, for the sixth time in franchise history. But by beating the Penguins, 4-2, this is the first time that Philadelphia has extended such a series to a Game Five.
And they have Martin Biron to thank for it. Biron made 36 saves, the tenth time in the 2008 playoffs that he has had at least 30 saves in a game. No other goaltender has had more than five such games in this year's playoffs.