Gentlemen, change your narratives: the Red Sox collapse/Rays surge story is kinda stale, what with the Rays’ surge being arrested of late. Now you gotta figure in the Angels who are tied with Tampa Bay, a mere two and a half back of Boston.
On September 2nd, Boston was nine games ahead of Tampa Bay and 9½ in front of the Angels in the wild-card standings. Since then the Angels have gone 12-7. Normally that’s not enough to catapult oneself into a race, but the Red Sox have cooperated nicely with that 5-15 of theirs. When you open the door someone is going to walk in.
Which also means that there isn’t one single thing anyone can point to with the Angels and say “HERE’s why they’re back in it!” There are a lot of things happening. Peter Bourjos has had a really nice second half at the plate, most specifically in the power department. Nine homers, four triples and 11 doubles since the break. Overall, a subpar offense on the season has turned into a pretty decent and occasionally downright swell offense in September. With their rotation, that’s more than enough to take advantage of what the Sox have given them.
I don’t know if they’ll make it. They have two series left: against an Oakland team that has given them a fair bit of trouble this season and against the Rangers who are playing even better than the Angels are right now. But they have a puncher’s chance. And, given the 1-2-3 of Weaver, Haren and Santana, if they do make it, they’re going to be able to give the Yankees fits in the first round.
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.