Red-hot Abreu making 29 teams look foolish

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The faltering economy didn’t take much of a toll on CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett last winter, thanks to the Yankees’ lavish buyout plan, but those unwanted by the Bombers had to scramble to find refuge and many remained unemployed until February. Take Bobby Abreu, for instance. Too many quality GMs believed they were already set at the outfield corners and too many lousy ones weren’t bright enough to see that he was still a fine player. After talking with the A’s and White Sox, Abreu ended up accepting $5 million from the Angels just days before camp opened. It was an $11 million paycut.
Of course, Abreu has proven to be a bargain, even if he didn’t hit his first homer until May 26. He’s currently batting .322/.417/.455 with 22 steals in 27 attempts. He ranks sixth in the AL in average, third in OBP, tied for fifth in steals and 11th in runs created. He was just named the AL’s player of the month for July, mainly because he led the circuit with 28 RBI. His defense, much maligned during his final season in New York, has graded out as practically average this year.
Abreu is on pace to play in 150 games and post an 800 OPS for the 12th straight seasons. With one more homer, he’ll join Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson, Joe Morgan and Willie Mays as the only players with 250 homers, 2,000 hits, 1,000 runs, 1,000 RBI, 1,000 walks and 300 stolen bases.
Unlike those five guys, Abreu hasn’t quite performed at a Hall of Fame level. He’s never led the league in average, OBP, slugging, homers, runs, RBI or steals. His only “black ink” comes from when he led the NL in doubles in 2002 and tied for the lead in Triple-A in 1999. He actually led the majors in walks in 2006, but that was the year he was traded from the Phillies to the Yankees at midseason. His highest ever finish in the MVP balloting was 14th place in 2005, which actually was pretty far down the list of his best seasons. He’s appeared in just two All-Star Games.
Abreu deserves much better treatment than he’s deserved through the years. He’s not one of the game’s greats, but he’s been awfully effective for a long time. Worse players have been enshrined in Cooperstown. It’s going to be very interesting to see how he’s treated when he’s a free agent again this winter. Abreu will turn 36 next spring, and he’s not known for his conditioning. Still, the remarkable durability should make him a candidate for one more multiyear deal, likely at significantly more than the $5 million he’s earning this season.

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.