Ex-Ranger Blalock still without a taker

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blalock fielding.jpgWith Russell Branyan joining the Indians and Carlos Delgado down following another hip surgery, the first base market is finally just about bare. Jermaine Dye would give the position a try if asked and Cuban defector Jose Julio Ruiz is getting some attention, but Hank Blalock is the one experienced viable major league regular left available.
And Blalock is a viable regular. He did a horrible job of getting on base for the Rangers last year, but he delivered 25 homers in 462 at-bats. The problem is that he hasn’t been both healthy and productive since 2004, his age-23 season. In 2007, he posted a 901 OPS in 58 games. In 2008, it was an 846 OPS in 65 games. He was mostly healthy last year, but he came in at 736 in 123 games, nearly half of them spent at DH.
My feeling is that Blalock’s upside makes him worthy of more than just a minor league contract, though he probably won’t get one at this point. He has four 25-homer seasons to his credit, and he’s a lifetime .269/.329/.465 hitter. While he’d always previously taken advantage of the friendly hitting conditions in Arlington, he was actually far more productive on the road (.256/.308/.493) than at home (.213/.247/.427) last year.
Blalock’s best hope now might be Tampa Bay. The Rays lost out on both Johnny Damon and Branyan in their quest for one more bat. Blalock wouldn’t get much of an opportunity to play defense there, but he’d be nice to have around in case Pat Burrell fails to bounce back from his awful 2009.
The other Florida team has also displayed some interest, though the Marlins would view him as a fallback to Logan Morrison or Gaby Sanchez at first base. The Red Sox weighed Branyan and may consider Blalock as well on a minor league deal. However, he’d only be a candidate to make that team if a Mike Lowell trade gets done. I think the White Sox make more sense. Andruw Jones is currently their best option at DH.

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.