The Tigers never asked Jose Valverde to get more than three outs during the regular season. On Wednesday, they asked him to do it for the second time in three days, and it backfired in a big way.
Mike Napoli delivered an RBI single and Nelson Cruz hit a three-run homer in the top of the 11th as the Rangers dropped the Tigers 7-3 to take a 3-1 lead in the ALCS. Valverde, who pitched a scoreless 10th in a tie game, struggled having already pitched two innings on Monday and one to earn a save Tuesday.
Valverde remains a perfect 52-for-52 in save situations this year (49-for-49 in the regular season, 3-for-3 in October), but he has frequently struggled while working in tie games or with the Tigers behind (he had a 5.79 ERA in non-save situations during the regular season). Since there was no chance of a save situation for the Tigers in extra innings tonight, manager Jim Leyland was certainly right to bring Valverde in for the 10th in a tie game. Keeping him out for the 11th for his fifth inning in three days was the questionable decision.
The Rangers also made a questionable decision of their own in the 11th. Scott Feldman, who has been awesome in the postseason, pitched a perfect 10th, throwing just 11 pitches. He certainly seemed like a very good bet to hold on to a four-run lead in the 11th. Manager Ron Washington went by the book, though, and turned the ball over to his closer anyway. Neftali Feliz had an easy inning to secure the victory, but given that the Rangers are playing the next two days, one could certainly argue that there was more to be gained by saving him for Thursday.
The decisions from both Jim Leyland and Washington figure to have ramifications in a close game Game 5. Valverde will certainly be available with the Tigers’ season on the line, but who knows how effective he’ll be? The Rangers, on the other hand, might shy away from Alexi Ogando, who threw two innings tonight, and while they’ll have Feliz in the ninth, they probably won’t extend him beyond three outs.
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.