Austin Jackson stole 27 bases while finishing runner-up in the Rookie of the Year balloting last season and the 24-year-old center field said recently that his goal for 2011 is to swipe 40 bags.
I think it’s just setting a goal to try to reach it, because I think I’m capable of stealing more bags. I think I need to try harder at it. I have speed and that’s a part of my game, and I definitely think that I could use it more on the base paths. It’s really just stealing a bag, maybe getting in scoring position a little more, try to score some more runs. I think it’s a thing you just have to kind of learn. I think it’s a thing I need.
Jason Beck of MLB.com notes that no Tigers player has stolen 30 bases in a season since Jim Leyland took over as manager in 2006, so getting to 40 on a team that generally doesn’t run a ton could be tough. In fact, in 19 seasons as manager Leyland’s teams have had a 40-steal player just three times: Edgar Renteria in 1998 and Barry Bonds in 1990 and 1991.
Looking beyond the Tigers and Leyland’s teams, a total of six players have swiped 40 or more bases in their age-24 season during the past decade: B.J. Upton, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Reyes, Carl Crawford, Juan Pierre, Luis Castillo. And prior to going 27-for-33 on the bases as a rookie, Jackson averaged 33 steals per 150 games in the minors.
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.