My virtual friend* Jonah Keri alerted me to something interesting from last night’s Rays-Orioles game. I didn’t see it live, but I just went back and watched the highlight on MLB.tv and I agree that it’s interesting enough to be worth passing along.
*While my previous professional life involved meeting real people, life as a blogger basically entails talking to people on the Internet all day. Jonah is one of those people who — if we were insurance salesmen or consultants or something — I would have met in person a long time ago, but because we’re both basically Internet baseball people, we’ve only chatted, exchanged tweets and emails, etc. There are a lot of people I know like that, actually, and henceforth I’m just going to refer to them as my “virtual friends” until I’ve actually had the chance to meet them in person. After all, what if I met Jonah tomorrow and we hated each others’ guts on some visceral level? Would have hated to call him my friend without knowing that!
One out, seventh inning, Rays up 8-4, runners on the corners and Miguel Tejada at bat. Tejada hits a ball into right center that Rays’ right fielder Ben Zobrist had to run for, but totally should have caught. Instead, it hit off his glove and skipped to the warning track. Jonah watches a lot of Rays games these days — for good reason — and says that it’s a play that Zobrist usually makes.
Zobrist goes after the ball, but it’s B.J. Upton — not Zobrist — who is, in Jonah’s words “hustling his ass off.” Upton beats Zobrist to the ball, grabs it and throws it in.
It’s a little thing in the course of a long season — and it didn’t end up saving any runs here — but how often do we hear about B.J. Upton hustling? Never, really, but you can be damn sure that the moment he loafs he’s going to be all over ESPN and the blogs and everywhere. For that matter, if Upton just let a ball doink off his glove like Zobrist did — which did end up costing the Rays runs — I’m guessing he’d get a lot more flak for it than Zobrist did.
Again, not a big thing, but I think it’s worth noting that B.J. Upton hustled last night.
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.