Already having picked up Rod Barajas to catcher, the Pirates are reportedly in the process of adding a second OBP-challenged regular to their lineup in shortstop Clint Barmes. That gives them a lineup that could look something like this:
RF Jose Tabata
LF Alex Presley
CF Andrew McCutchen
2B Neil Walker
1B Garrett Jones
3B Pedro Alvarez
SS Clint Barmes
C Rod Barajas
Obviously, that’s not a very potent group. The Pirates still want to re-sign Derrek Lee to play first, and if they can do that, Jones would battle Presley for a starting job in the outfield.
Third base is another problem, as Alvarez scarcely resembled a major leaguer last year. In-house alternatives Pedro Ciriaco, Josh Harrison and Chase d’Arnaud aren’t very attractive, so a stopgap third baseman would be nice. Unfortunately, there’s very little available at the position. If Wilson Betemit is out of their price range, they’ll probably have to gamble on someone like Kevin Kouzmanoff or Jose Lopez.
On-base percentage seems likely to be a major issue regardless of what the Pirates do the rest of the winter. Just one player in their current lineup had a .350 OBP last year (McCutchen at .364) and only one more cleared .340 (Tabata). The team is certainly better now at catcher and shortstop than it was last season, but that’s simply not saying much.
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.