Albert Pujols, Rod Barajas, Chad Fairchild

Hot-hitting Cardinals demolish Dodgers, find way to .500 mark

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The Cardinals’ offense was sputtering in a big way last week, with some asking if impending free agent Albert Pujols was pressing after getting off to the worst start of his career.

What a difference a week makes.

Pujols and Lance Berkman both homered twice in last night’s 11-2 drubbing of the Dodgers. Pujols has three home runs in the past two games and three multi-hit games in his past four. Can’t keep that guy down for long. Meanwhile, the suddenly resurgent Berkman has six home runs in last 19 at-bats. Only Troy Tulowitzki has hit more home runs so far this season.

And then we get to the Cardinals’ offense as a whole, which is currently producing at a historic level. Including their 19-hit performance against the Dodgers last night, they’ve collected at least 14 hits in each of their last five games. According to the Associated Press via NBCSports.com, the Cardinals haven’t done that since Aug. 31-Sept. 7, 1930, when they had 14 hits or more in six straight.

The Cardinals have won three in a row and five out of six, reaching the .500 mark (7-7) for the first time this season. They’ll try to stay hot tonight against left-hander Clayton Kershaw, who has a 1.37 ERA and 24/4 K/BB ratio over his first three starts this season. And that’s no easy task.

Red Sox set a new major league record with 11 strikeouts in a row

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 20: Starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez #52 of the Boston Red Sox works the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 20, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images
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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 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)
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.