Jonathan Papelbon “is poised to ask for $11.5 million” in his final year of arbitration, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.
That would be a raise of slightly over $2 million from his 2010 salary, which Papelbon earned while having the worst season of his career. He blew nine of 46 save opportunities while posting career-worst marks in ERA (3.90), losses (7), walks (28), and homers (7).
Cafardo notes that the Red Sox almost always avoid actually going through the arbitration process with players, instead agreeing to a contract before the hearing can take place, but speculates that “they might fight this one out.”
However, while it makes sense that someone shouldn’t get a $2.15 million raise to $11.5 million following a career-worst season the arbitration process works in such a way that a raise was all but guaranteed unless Papelbon got hurt or was downright terrible. In other words, “fight this one out” could just as easily backfire for the Red Sox and result in their having to pay him $11.5 million instead of a slightly lesser figure reached via pre-hearing compromise.
Of course, there’s nothing actually forcing the Red Sox to keep Papelbon. They could simply non-tender him if they don’t like the potential $11.5 million price tag or trade him to a team more willing to pay that much for a 30-year-old closer showing various signs of decline.
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.