Andrew McCutchen was batting just 9-for-41 (.220) over the first 11 games of the season, all of the No. 3 spot in the lineup. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle moved him back to the leadoff spot last night against the Reds in an effort to shake things up, but McCutchen went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts.
Still, Hurdle tells Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com that he was encouraged with what he saw from his talented young center fielder.
“I thought he was tracking the ball better,” Hurdle said. “He didn’t get too big. They did pitch him pretty effectively, as well. I’m hoping that will spark him a little bit. I think it will.”
“It’s funny how certain things will spark someone,” Hurdle said. “If nothing else, the ire of going 0-for-5 with four punchouts, that can light a fuse, too. He’s got a lot of professional pride, and I expect this thing to turn around sooner rather than later.”
McCutchen has been just as patient as ever in a small sample size so far this season (6/8 K/BB ratio), but his batting average on balls in play has been way down (.194) compared to his career average (.313). Some of this is bad luck, sure, but McCutchen has also hit less line drives and more fly balls (and infield fly balls), potentially because he was trying to do too much as a run producer. Hopefully putting him back in the leadoff spot will get him back to what makes him such a dynamic player.
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.