J.J. Hardy wore out his welcome in Minnesota after one season, in part because Ron Gardenhire wanted more speed in the lineup, in part because Hardy missed one-third of the season with injuries, and in part because the Twins didn’t seem to grasp that excellent defense and a decent bat made him one of the league’s best all-around shortstops.
Apparently the Orioles like Hardy a lot more, as team president Andy MacPhail told Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun that they’re interested in signing him to a multi-year contract extension before the 28-year-old becomes a free agent at the end of the season:
There’s no reason why he wouldn’t be an asset here for years to come. I definitely think we’ll have conversations. There’s no question about it. The closer you get for free agency, the more difficult it is for players to want that extension. I think it’s something that we definitely targeted before the All-Star break to talk about.
For his part, Hardy told Zrebiec that he likes playing for the Orioles, but added: “Some of it has to do with what my agent thinks.”
Hardy hasn’t been injury free this year either, missing nearly a month with an oblique strain, but has yet to commit an error in 36 games while hitting .287 with six homers and an .836 OPS that ranks fifth among MLB shortstops behind only Jose Reyes, Jhonny Peralta, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Troy Tulowitzki.
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.