Based on some of the responses I’ve received, I seem to have created an impression in my last post that I think the television ratings of football vs. baseball are misleading as to the sports’ relative popularity. I didn’t mean to create that impression, though I see now that I did.
Let me be clear: I realize that football is far more popular in this country now than baseball is, and that would be the case no matter how the broadcast dynamics worked. It probably has been the case for a long, long time too. Since the 70s, I’d guess, at least in terms of the national mood, even if the ratings show it differently.
There are a ton of reasons for this, some of them understandable (more visceral action and kinetic energy in football; more excitement of a certain kind; any one game means more in football than in baseball) and some of them lamentable (the prevalence of gambling on the NFL and the far greater popularity of fantasy football as opposed to fantasy baseball). Does this bother me? Nah. I mean, sure, I wish everyone liked baseball as much as I do, but it’s not the case and there’s no sense moaning about it.
Besides: The top movie this past weekend was “Jackass 3D.” I take that as pretty solid proof that popularity is overrated.
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.