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Roger Schlueter

MLB Notebook: Bonifacio on pace to join Cubs great

Utility man's hot start puts him in line with All-Star first baseman Grace

MLB Notebook: Bonifacio on pace to join Cubs great

On April 4, 1996, Cubs first baseman Mark Grace collected a double, a single and two RBIs in Chicago's 9-4 victory over the Dodgers. The Cubs were 2-1 in the very young season, and Grace was a significant contributor to the cause, having amassed -- with three straight multihit games -- seven hits in his first 14 at-bats. Grace would have another three hits in Game 4 (making him only the third Cubs player in the past 83 years to have at least two hits in each of the team's first four games), and he would finish that memorable April with 42 hits.

No Cubs player between 1914 and 2013 has had more in a March/April stretch. In only three games this season, Cubs utility man Emilio Bonifacio is already more than a quarter of the way to Grace's 42 hits.

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Bonifacio has piled up the hits in Chicago's first series, adding two more in a 3-2 win over the Pirates on Thursday. He is 11-for-16 on the season entering Friday. Bonifacio is the 10th Cubs player since 1914 (and only leadoff hitter) to open the season with at least two hits in each of the team's first three games. Before him, Starlin Castro in 2011 had been the last to do it.

Bonifacio -- who also stole his fourth base of the year -- is the second leadoff hitter since 1914 to have at least two hits and at least one stolen base in each of his team's first three games. In '27, Giants outfielder Ty Tyson opened the campaign with a five-hit, one-steal game, and he followed that with two hits and two steals, then two hits and one stolen base.

Between 1914 and 2013, the high mark for hits by a Cubs player through the first three games was Randy Jackson's 10 in '54. That season, Jackson opened the year with two hits on Opening Day, and then put together consecutive four-hit games. Over that stretch, the third baseman also drove in seven runs.

This is not the first time that Bonifacio has leapt from the starting gate. In 2009, while with the Marlins, he opened the year with five straight multihit games, and he was 14-for-24 during that stretch. That year, Bonifacio collected four hits on Opening Day, a feat he achieved again in '14.

Bonifacio is one of 12 players since 1914 to be able to claim four-hit performances in two Opening Days. The full list, including Bonifacio: Don Baylor, Dante Bichette, Ira Flagstead, Joe Gedeon, Babe Herman, Billy Herman, Jeff Kent, John Mayberry, Aaron Miles, Xavier Nady and Buck Weaver. Bonifacio, Miles and Weaver are the only switch-hitters among the group.

Marlins bust through gate on offense
With every starter but one contributing at least one hit, the Marlins collected a total of 13 and came away with an 8-5 win over the Rockies on Thursday. Miami -- which is 3-1 on the year -- has amassed 27 runs this year. Through four games in 2013, the team had eight runs, and it took the club 14 contests to reach 27.

New Miami infielder Casey McGehee had a pair of hits and drove in three runs Thursday. McGehee -- who drove in four runs on Opening Day -- is one of three Marlins to have multiple three-RBI games within the team's first four contests. Gary Sheffield did this in 1998, as did Mike Jacobs in 2006.

Outfielder Giancarlo Stanton continued his productive start to 2014, with a double, a single, an RBI and a walk in the latest victory. Stanton drove in at least one run in all four Marlins contests -- he is the sixth player to do this for the franchise. The others: Moises Alou (1997), Jeff Conine ('97), Cliff Floyd (2001), Ivan Rodriguez ('03) and Jorge Cantu ('10).

In the Marlins' victory Thursday, Steve Cishek closed the door on the Rockies with a scoreless ninth, and he has converted 31 straight save opportunities. It is the longest active streak in the Majors, and in these 31 games, Cishek has not been charged with a run. Over the course of the streak (which began on June 8, 2013), Cishek has thrown 47 2/3 innings and allowed six runs for a 1.13 ERA.

Nats accomplish rare feat
In New York, the Nationals finished off a three-game sweep of the Mets, winning by a score of 8-2. It's the third time in franchise history the club has opened the year with a 3-0 record, with all three victories on the road (1983, 2003). It's the first time in their franchise's history the Mets have opened the year 0-3, with all three losses at home.

The Nats' pitching staff added eight more strikeouts to their season total, pushing that figure to 39. Since 1914, only the 2013 Rangers (43) and '66 Indians (42) have amassed more K's through their first three games.

Here and there
• In the Twins' first victory of the season (over the White Sox, 10-9), first baseman Chris Colabello contributed a pair of doubles and six RBIs. The 30-year-old, who was playing in just his 58th career game, is one of six Minnesota first basemen to have a game with at least two extra-base hits and at least six RBIs. Bob Allison was first in 1964, followed by Rod Carew ('77), Randy Bush ('89), Ron Coomer (2000) and Justin Morneau ('06, '07, and '09).

• San Francisco first baseman Brandon Belt homered in the Giants' 8-5 win over the Diamondbacks, giving him three big flies this season. Belt is the fifth Giants player since 1914 to have a home run in at least three of the team's first four games. In '71, Willie Mays became the first player in history to homer in each of his team's first four games. Belt joins Hank Thompson ('50), Mays ('62, '64), Kevin Mitchell ('91) and Barry Bonds (2002) as those who were 3-for-4 in this endeavor.

• In the Diamondbacks' loss to the Giants, Paul Goldschmidt jumped on Tim Lincecum for a first-inning home run. Goldschmidt -- who later added a single against the Giants right-hander -- is now 12-for-23 in his career against Lincecum, with six home runs. No player has hit more home runs against the two-time National League Cy Young Award winner, despite the fact that Goldschmidt ranks tied for 39th in plate appearances against Lincecum entering Friday.

• Houston's Dexter Fowler continued his early-season surge, collecting two singles Thursday. With the multihit effort, Fowler joined Ken Caminiti as the only players to begin their time with the Astros with three straight games of at least two hits.

• After drawing three walks through the first 11 innings, Oakland's Coco Crisp delivered a game-ending solo homer in the bottom of the 12th, and the Athletics defeated the Mariners, 3-2. Crisp -- who hit 22 homers from the leadoff spot in 2013 to tie for the third-highest total ever for an A's No. 1 hitter -- is the first Oakland leadoff man since Tony Phillips in 1999 to have at least three walks and a homer in a game. Crisp is the first to do it in an A's victory since Rickey Henderson on April 20, 1993; in that contest, Henderson also hit an extra-inning walk-off home run.

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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