The Mets bench my longtime nemesis, Jeff Francoeur

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For years I moaned every time Jeff Francoeur’s name appeared in the Braves’ lineup (which was every single game between 2005 and 2009, really). The guy couldn’t hit. He was killing my team. I couldn’t complain too much, though, because for reasons known only to John Schuerholz, Frank Wren and God Almighty, the Braves never made an effort to go and get an outfielder who deserved Francoeur’s playing time more than Francoeur himself did.

With Carlos Beltran’s return the Mets aren’t in that situation, however, and now they’ve done what the Braves never would or never could allow themselves to do: they’ve sent Frency to the benchy:

Manager Jerry Manuel met with Francoeur for about 30 minutes Sunday
to discuss what Beltran’s activation would mean for his role on the
team. Both Manuel and Francoeur described the meeting as very positive.

Manuel told reporters before Sunday’s game against the Braves that he
planned to shift Angel Pagan to right field upon Beltran’s return,
displacing Francoeur, who Manuel said would start mostly against
left-handed pitchers.

To Francouer’s credit, he is saying all the right things. Pagan deserves to start. He’ll do his best as a pinch hitter and platoon bat (Frenchy ain’t fantastic against lefties, but he’s hitting them better than Pagan is this year). He’s not going to sit and sulk. In short, he’s being a pro.

This is quite a contrast to the last time Francoeur faced some professional adversity. The Braves sent him down to the minors a few years ago to try and get him to work on not swinging at every pitch he saw (which was quite a damning statement given that the Braves have never placed all that much emphasis on plate discipline). Francoeur’s response: full-blown temper tantrum.  The experiment was supposed to last for several weeks but ended up lasting three days thanks to Francoeur’s sulk-fest. Always tight with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it was really no surprise to see the press rally to his side and to see the Braves’ front office cave in.  I had been souring on Frenchy for some time before that, but that incident turned me off him for good.

He’s off my team now and on he’s on my team’s rival so I have no need to really consider Francoeur all that deeply anymore. Yet like someone involved in a bad breakup, I still think about him a lot. Maybe it’s schadenfreude at him hurting the Mets. Maybe it’s just because he’s not causing me direct pain anymore. Whatever it is, I’m starting to soften on the guy.

Indeed, this benching incident — and his response — actually has me thinking nice things about him for the first time in a good four years. For the longest time my biggest beef against Francoeur wasn’t that he was bad per se, it was that he seemed completely unwilling to acknowledge that his game was flawed and that he had anything to learn.  In his response to being benched, however, it seems that he has at least begun to accept reality, and that’s something.

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.