Why the Pirates lose

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One of the only redeeming things about the Pirates’ abysmal season is that Dejan Kovacevic of the Post-Gazette has been on a roll lately. Rather than just trot out the tired old “the Pirates are really, really bad” columns, he’s been exploring why they’re bad, oftentimes in interesting ways.

Today is a good example. Kovacevic explains why the Pirates got rid of Jose Bautista. Seems that when they decided he was a platoon player — which may have been a defensible decision when it happened — they took his displeasure with that as disloyalty and a bad attitude. Kovacevic debunks that, however:

Athletes always see themselves as better than they are. That’s how a Don Kelly gets to the majors. That’s how a Jay Bell becomes a Gold Glover. That’s how a Doug Mientkiewicz carved out 400 at-bats here a couple years ago. That’s even how an Albert Pujols  goes from being someone who could be really good without trying to maybe the best hitter of his generation. Thinking big. Talking big. It’s part of sports.

When players say that they do not see themselves as bench guys or minor-league guys, even if it goes against the evaluation of management, it is not insubordination to express that. This is the major leagues. It is not the utopian order found in the minor leagues, where all the socks are pulled high and all the buzzcut coaches are barking out orders. Players here speak their minds.

Absolutely. There’s a difference between a clubhouse cancer and a competitive player. The good organizations understand that difference. The bad ones — the ones who worry about insubordination all the time — don’t.  Until the Pirates figure that kind of thing out, they’ll continue to make bad choices.

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)
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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.

Video: Dustin Pedroia’s base running sends Red Sox to 11th consecutive win

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 24:  Dustin Pedroia #15 of the Boston Red Sox is greeted at the dugout by Pablo Sandoval #48, left, and Mookie Betts #50, right, after hitting a grand slam during the seventh inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on September 24, 2016 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr. /Getty Images)
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The Red Sox defeated the Rays 3-2 on Sunday afternoon thanks to some nifty base running by second baseman Dustin Pedroia. The win marks their 11th in a row, inching them closer to a division title.

With the game tied 2-2 in the top of the tenth, Pedroia led off with a single off of reliever Eddie Gamboa. After Xander Bogaerts lined out, David Ortiz ripped a double into the right-center field gap. Pedroia, running hard the whole way, rounded third and motored towards home plate, but the relay throw home — from center fielder Jaff Decker to second baseman Logan Forsythe to catcher Luke Maile — beat Pedroia by a good 10 feet. He was a dead duck.

Pedroia danced around Maile’s glove, avoiding the tag. Maile, on his side, continued to attempt to apply the tag on Pedroia. When he finally did, the ball was knocked loose and Pedroia scored the go-ahead run. The play was reviewed but the call was upheld.

Joe Kelly kept the Rays off the board in the bottom of the 10th, securing the 3-2 victory for the Red Sox.

The Blue Jays also won on Sunday, meaning the Red Sox still have a 5.5-game lead in the AL East. Any combination of two Red Sox wins and Blue Jays losses will seal up the division for the Red Sox. The two clubs round out the regular season with a three-game set against each other in Boston.