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MLB.com Columnist

Roger Schlueter

MLB Notebook: Leading off -- impact hitters

Twins' Santana enjoys huge day; Markakis, Gardner make presence felt

MLB Notebook: Leading off -- impact hitters play video for MLB Notebook: Leading off -- impact hitters

Entering Sunday's contests, batters swinging the lumber while occupying the top spot in the order were holding a .724 OPS. That figure stood in a tie for the 42nd-highest mark since 1920, with the collective .779 OPS produced by leadoff hitters in 1929 maintaining the highest eminence for the live-ball era. But in that explosive '29 season, the Major League OPS at the end of the year was a robust .770 -- only four seasons ever have seen a higher mark.

In contrast, this season's overall OPS checked in at a much blander .705 going into Sunday's games. So from this perspective, this year's crop of leadoff hitters -- a group getting all sorts of good work from the likes of Jose Altuve, Nick Markakis, Brett Gardner, Charlie Blackmon, Denard Span, and (most notably on Sunday) Minnesota's Danny Santana -- are making more of a impact on the overall Major League line than even that crazy '29 season saw.

The Twins set season highs for hits (23) and runs in a 16-3 win over the White Sox on Sunday, and in the process, they saw leadoff hitter Santana collect five hits and the bottom of the their order produce back-to-back-to-back home runs. Santana's five hits included a double and a triple, and the center fielder also walked and drove in four runs while scoring two and stealing two bases.

Santana is the third player since 1914 to have a game in which he reached safely at least six times, drove in four runs and swiped two bases. He joins No. 3 hitter Rogers Hornsby (June 12, 1922) and No. 5 hitter Ben Chapman (July 14, 1931) in the club.

Santana became the 25th player for the Senators/Twins since 1914 to have a five-hit, four-RBI day, and the third of these 25 to do it out of the leadoff spot. Earl McNeely did this on July 13, 1926, and seven years later, Joe Kuhel matched the feat on May 16, 1933. Of the first 24 to have this kind of line, only one -- Cecil Travis on May 5, 1946 -- even had one stolen base.

Among leadoff hitters since 1914, Santana is the 39th to have a multi-run, multi-RBI, multi-steal, multi-extra-base hit game. He is the second to do this in eight days, joining Pittsburgh's Josh Harrison. Santana is the first of the 39 to have done this for the Senators/Twins.

• In the top of the ninth, Chris Parmelee, Oswaldo Arcia and Eric Fryer hit consecutive home runs. It is the seventh time since moving to Minnesota for the 1961 season that the team has seen back-to-back-to-back homers in an inning, and the first time it's happened since Doug Mientkiewicz, Corey Koskie and Torii Hunter did it on July 12, 2001. in a win over the Brewers in Milwaukee. The Twins share the MLB record for most consecutive homers in an inning, with Tony Oliva, Bob Allison, Jimmie Hall and Harmon Killebrew going back-to-back-to-back-to-back in the 11th inning on May 2, 1964, against Kansas City.

One and done: Markakis dials up historic power

• Orioles leadoff hitter Markakis opened with a home run in the bottom of the first, which marked all of the game's scoring as the Orioles shut out the Mariners, 1-0.

Markakis is the first Orioles player (so going back to 1954) to hit a leadoff homer in the first inning of a 1-0 win, and, dating back to 1914, the only player for the franchise to do this.

In the win, Markakis also contributed a single and a double, and now has 1,501 hits in his career. He is the third player for the franchise to have at least 1,500 hits through his first nine seasons, joining the St. Louis Browns' George Sisler (1,692) and Baltimore's Eddie Murray (1,528).

Gardner outslugging the competition

Gardner fell a triple shy of the cycle, walked and drove in three runs as the Yankees outlasted the Red Sox, 8-7. Gardner -- who has collected three doubles and five home runs in his past six games -- is slugging .467 this season, with a .485 mark in 382 plate appearances as the leadoff hitter.

Among players with at least 300 plate appearances out of the leadoff spot, Gardner's .485 slugging percentage is the highest. His .830 OPS is also the highest.

The last Yankees player to have at least 400 plate appearances from the leadoff slot and finish the year with a slugging percentage of at least .480 in that spot was Alfonso Soriano, who slugged .533 in 2003. The highest mark for a Yankees leadoff hitter since 1914 (min. 400 plate appearances) belongs to Bobby Bonds, who posted a .566 mark while batting first in 1975. That .566 is the seventh highest for any leadoff hitter since 1914 (same minimum), with Brady Anderson's .627 in 1996 the top mark.

Murphy continues to haunt former club

With his Indians down, 3-1, to the Rangers in the bottom of the ninth, David Murphy hit a game-tying, two-run home run to push the contest into extra-innings. In those extra frames, Murphy's outfield teammate Michael Brantley ended the festivities with a solo homer in the bottom of the 12th.

The Indians had last experienced the joys of a game-tying homer in the ninth and a game-ending home run in extra-innings on June 15, 2005, against the Rockies. In that eventual 7-6 victory, Jhonny Peralta hit a solo shot in the bottom of the ninth and Aaron Boone connected for a solo blast in the 11th for the win.

Murphy's game-tying long ball was his second extra-base hit of the contest, with his RBI double in the second inning also accompanying two walks. For the year, Murphy -- who played for the Rangers from 2007-13 -- played seven games against the Rangers, going 12-for-25 with six doubles, a home run, seven RBIs and a slash line of .480/.500/.840. Murphy is one of two Indians players this season with an OPS of at least 1.300 against Texas, as Lonnie Chisenhall owns a 1.469 in 32 plate appearances. There are only two other Indians players to have a season with at least 25 plate appearances and OPS of at least 1.300 against the Senators/Rangers: Oscar Gamble in 1973 (1.345) and Pat Tabler in '84 (1.399).

Here and there

• Washington's Span extended his on-base streak to 29 straight with a 2-for-3, one-walk effort vs. the Phillies from the leadoff spot that also saw him swipe two bags. Since the franchise moved to Washington, Span's streak is tied for the third longest. Ryan Zimmerman posted a 43-game run in 2009, while Soriano reached safely in 30 straight in '06. Zimmerman also had a 29-game streak in 2011, and Span had one in '13.

Madison Bumgarner threw a two-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts and a walk as the Giants enjoyed a laugher against the Mets, winning 9-0. By age, Bumgarner (25 years and two days old) is the 26th-youngest left-hander since 1914 to have a shutout on two-or-fewer hits with at least 10 strikeouts. There is one teenager on this list: Dodgers lefty Sandy Koufax, who was 19 years and 240 days old when he two-hit the Reds and fanned 14 batters (while walking five).

Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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