Milton Bradley has played just seven games for the Mariners, yet manager Don Wakamatsu has already had a pair of sit-downs with the troubled outfielder.
Wakamatsu met with Bradley after he flipped off the crowd in Texas last week and they had a late-night, closed-door session yesterday to talk about his 1-for-22 start to the season. Here’s how Wakamatsu described last night’s chat:
We talked about not fueling the fire, and relying on your teammates to help you out. That’s what we’re focusing on right now. There are going to be people looking for him and I understand that, but lead by example. I think he’s found a comfort level with this ball club, and doesn’t want to let his teammates down. A lot of fans don’t realize he cares sometimes too much about his performance, and what he’s supposed to be bringing to this club.
Either that or he’s just nuts.
Bradley should eventually get on track offensively, because he’s been an above-average hitter in each of the past seven years and bounced back from a similarly slow start with the Cubs last year to hit .271/.385/.412 in his final 113 games. However, his defense has been absolutely brutal in left field so far and that seems unlikely to change at age 32.
And of course the fact that he’s playing for his eighth team in 11 seasons and has had incidents at every previous stop isn’t simply a matter of “caring too much about his performance.” Still, if he hits something close to his .276/.370/.448 career mark and keeps the incidents to a minimum things will be just fine in Seattle. Unfortunately for the Mariners, history suggests that if Bradley’s slow start continues much longer the issues may begin to snow ball.
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 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.