Howard, Werth come up big as Phillies finish Rockies

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Ryan Howard had the go-ahead hit in the ninth Sunday. This time he settled for the game-tying two-run double and left it up to Jayson Werth to knock him in. Werth, who hit a solo homer in the sixth, did just that with a single to center and the Phillies won 5-4.
The one non-sweep in Divisional Series play featured another thrilling game Monday, with the Rockies scoring three times in the bottom of the eighth, only to have the Phillies come back with three runs in the top of the ninth and clinch the series in four games.
It was the worst possible matchup for the Rockies and then the worst-case scenario Saturday: because of the snowout that pushed back the two games in Denver one day apiece, the Phillies were going to be able to start five straight southpaws against a Colorado lineup that, at its best, features five left-handed hitters.
In the end, the Rockies did their best and got to both Cole Hamels in Game 2 and J.A. Happ in Game 3. However, they fell a little short in Game 3 anyway and they struggled mightily to solve Cliff Lee, who allowed two earned runs over 16 1/3 innings between Games 1 and 4.
So, now Divisional Series play is over, all too soon again. Is there better evidence for the need of a seven-game first round than what happened to Colorado? Baseball is a 25-man game, but the Phillies were able to win a series with one pitcher throwing 45 percent of their innings. It’s an absurd way to go about deciding the true champion. Having the best pitcher in a series should provide a nice advantage, but it’s too extreme of one in a short series filled with off days.
The Phillies have to be pretty excited with the way they’re playing as they head to Los Angeles. Their power hitters are clicking on all cylinders, and even Brad Lidge might have a little confidence back after picking up saves in back-to-back games.

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)
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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.