The Week Ahead: Wheeling and dealing

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With the non-waiver trade deadline looming on Friday, this coming week
is one of the most exciting of the baseball season. It’s not quite the
World Series, but is not unlike the World Series of Poker.

Player 1: You don’t want to give up your entire minor league system for my pitcher? Fine, then I’ll deal with this other guy.

Player 2: No problem, I think player No. 3’s pitcher is better anyway.

Player 3: Really? Cool!

You know some teams are bluffing, others are slow-playing their
winning hands, while still others are just hanging around, trying to
gum up the works. That is what is so fascinating about the march to the
trade deadline.

Roy Halladay is, of course, the big prize out there. Will he be traded? Sometimes it seems inevitable, other times unlikely. It all depends on the day of the week hour of the day.

Will Doc go to the Phillies? The Red Sox? The Rangers? Would the Yankees (GASP) part with Joba Chamberlain?

It’s enough to make the head spin. And that’s just Halladay.

What about Cliff Lee, the Indians ace who won the 2008 AL
Cy Young award? The Dodgers, Angels and Phillies (if they’re really
giving up on Halladay) appear to be lurking. Will Cleveland also deal
Victor Martinez?

Looking further down the list, teams might be turning to the likes of Jarrod Washburn, who is quietly having his best season since at least 2002, maybe ever.

With the Mariners’ destruction at the hands of the Indians over the
weekend, the departure of Washburn (scheduled to pitch Tuesday) and
Russell Branyan could be imminent. Could a match be found with the Brewers?

And how about the disaster known as the Washington Nationals? Nick
Johnson, Adam Dunn and others could all be heading (they hope) to
newer, sunnier destinations where fans go to games and jersey
adornments are spelled correctly.

And that, friends, is the tip of the iceberg. It will be a wild week, a
rollercoaster of sketchy rumors, breathless television updates and, of
course, terrific Tweets.

We’ll do our best to keep you updated on everything here at Circling the Bases, as well as on our rumors page.

Oh and one last thing: Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but here are five reasons trade deadline deals are overrated. Don’t let it spoil your fun.

More after the jump …

FIVE SERIES TO WATCH

*Yankees at Rays, July 27-29: The Rays have to at least
hold their own in this series to stay within reach. Especially when you
consider that the Red Sox are right there ahead of them, too.

*Astros at Cubs, July 27-29: The Cubs have ridden a
four-game winning streak to the top of the NL Central. But in this
amazingly tight division, the Astros, just two games back, have a
chance to make some noise.

*Dodgers at Cardinals, July 27-30: The Matt Holliday deal
has Cardinals fans buzzing, although the team has not yet taken off.
Now, with a four-game series against the league’s best team
(record-wise), it’s time to deliver.

*Blue Jays at Mariners, July 27-29: Neither one of these
teams appear to be going anywhere as far as the postseason is
concerned, but the trade deadline is another matter. Jarrod Washburn
and Roy Halladay are both scheduled to pitch in this series, and a
number of other potential trade candidates will take the field.

*Phillies at Giants, July 30-Aug. 2: The defending
champions are on a roll, having won eight of their last 10 games. The
surprising Giants are in the thick of the NL wild card race, but this
four-game series could prove crucial.

ON THE TUBE

Monday, 7:05 p.m. ET: Dodgers at Cardinals (ESPN)

Wednesday, 7:08 p.m.: Yankees at Rays (ESPN)

*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Yankees at White Sox (FOX)

*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Royals at Rays (FOX)

*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Dodgers at Braves (FOX)

Sunday, 4 p.m.: Phillies at Giants (TBS)

Sunday, 8:05 p.m.: Dodgers at Braves (ESPN)

*Check local listings

Red Sox set a new major league record with 11 strikeouts in a row

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 20: Starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez #52 of the Boston Red Sox works the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 20, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images
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Lost in the nifty base running by Dustin Pedroia that won Sunday’s game against the Rays, the Red Sox set a new major league record by striking out 11 batters in a row, per Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe. Starter Eduardo Rodriguez struck out the final six Rays he faced and reliever Heath Hembree struck out five Rays in a row after that. Tom Seaver had the previous consecutive strikeout streak of 10, set on April 22, 1970 against the Padres.

The Red Sox also set a team record with 23 strikeouts in total: 13 by Rodriguez, five by Hembree, one by Matt Barnes, and four by Joe Kelly. Per Abraham, that’s the most strikeouts in a 10-inning game since at least 1913 and the most in a game of any length since 2004.

For Rodriguez, Sunday marked the first double-digit strikeout game of his career. He has pitched quite well since returning to the rotation at the start of the second half. Over 13 starts, the lefty has a 3.10 ERA with a 70/23 K/BB ratio in 72 2/3 innings.

Dodgers clinch NL West on Charlie Culberson’s walk-off home run

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 20: Charlie Culberson #6 of the Los Angeles Dodgers runs to first base after hitting a single RBI in the second inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on July 20, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
Matt Hazlett/Getty Images
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Dodgers second baseman Charlie Culberson delivered a walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the 10th inning, clinching the NL West for the Dodgers on Sunday afternoon. What a way to celebrate Vin Scully’s final home game behind the microphone.

The Dodgers were trailing 2-1 in the seventh inning, but shortstop Corey Seager tripled in a run to tie the game. Rockies outfielder David Dahl untied the game in the top of the ninth with a two-out solo home run off of Kenley Jansen. But Seager once again rose to the occasion, blasting a game-tying solo shot in the bottom half of the ninth against Adam Ottavino. That would set the stage for Culberson in the next frame.

Culberson, a former Rockie, came into the afternoon with a .591 OPS and zero home runs in 53 plate appearances. He finished the afternoon 3-for-5 with the homer.

It’s the fourth consecutive season in which the Dodgers have won the NL West. The Cubs have clinched the best record, which means they’ll play the winner of the Wild Card game. The Dodgers will play the Nationals in the NLDS. The Nationals have a 1.5-game lead over the Dodgers for home-field advantage, so both teams are still playing for something of importance in the regular season’s final week.