It’s been a few months since we’ve checked in on Eduardo Sanchez, the hard-throwing St. Louis setup man who posted a 1.88 ERA and struck out 33 batters over his first 28 2/3 major league innings.
Sanchez has been sidelined since mid-June with an injured right shoulder, but he should be back in the Cards’ bullpen before the end of the regular season.
According to MLB.com’s Matthew Leach, Sanchez threw an “aggressive” bullpen session Wednesday afternoon at Busch Stadium. The right-hander treated the workout like a simulated game, taking a bit of rest between two different sets of pitches. He reported no issues with his shoulder, and Cardinals manager Tony La Russa later expressed optimism that Sanchez is on the cusp of returning to action.
“I think he’s going to throw a little bit more [before pitching in a game],” La Russa said. “Maybe [he will be activated] next week, week after, the last week. Make sure he throws enough. It’s just whenever he’s ready. When he’s ready, he pitches.”
Depending on what the Cardinals do in free agency this winter, the ninth-inning role for 2012 could be up for grabs. Fernando Salas has done a fine job this season, but he’s recently displayed signs of fatigue. Jason Motte has been dominant, but there are worries about his limited arsenal. Sanchez should be in the mix.
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 seven 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.