Neither of these moves come as a huge surprise, but the Diamondbacks announced this evening that they have declined their club options on Aaron Hill and Zach Duke.
Hill’s contract included a pair of $8 million options for 2012 and 2013. The 29-year-old second baseman played well after being acquired from the Blue Jays in August, batting .315/.386/.492 with two homers, 16 RBI and an .878 OPS over 142 plate appearances. The small sample of success wasn’t enough to convince Arizona GM Kevin Towers to make the hefty investment, but they are interesting in retaining him at a lesser salary.
Duke, who was acquired from the Pirates last December, will receive a $750,000 buyout rather than a $5.5 million salary in 2012. The 28-year-old left-hander didn’t make his season debut until May due to a broken hand and ended up posting a disappointing 4.93 ERA and 32/19 K/BB ratio over 76 2/3 innings. He was banished to the bullpen following the All-Star break.
The Diamondbacks also exercised mutual options on utility infielder Willie Bloomquist and backup catcher Henry Blanco. Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports that Bloomquist will become a free agent after declining his portion of the mutual option, but that he is interested in returning as part of a multi-year contract. If Blanco opts to exercise his part of the mutual option, he will earn $1.15 million in 2012.
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.
The Red Sox defeated the Rays 3-2 on Sunday afternoon thanks to some nifty base running by second baseman Dustin Pedroia. The win marks their 11th in a row, inching them closer to a division title.
With the game tied 2-2 in the top of the tenth, Pedroia led off with a single off of reliever Eddie Gamboa. After Xander Bogaerts lined out, David Ortiz ripped a double into the right-center field gap. Pedroia, running hard the whole way, rounded third and motored towards home plate, but the relay throw home — from center fielder Jaff Decker to second baseman Logan Forsythe to catcher Luke Maile — beat Pedroia by a good 10 feet. He was a dead duck.
Pedroia danced around Maile’s glove, avoiding the tag. Maile, on his side, continued to attempt to apply the tag on Pedroia. When he finally did, the ball was knocked loose and Pedroia scored the go-ahead run. The play was reviewed but the call was upheld.
Joe Kelly kept the Rays off the board in the bottom of the 10th, securing the 3-2 victory for the Red Sox.
The Blue Jays also won on Sunday, meaning the Red Sox still have a 5.5-game lead in the AL East. Any combination of two Red Sox wins and Blue Jays losses will seal up the division for the Red Sox. The two clubs round out the regular season with a three-game set against each other in Boston.