Last week we learned that both Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt turned down offers from Pittsburgh, and in Jackson’s case he turned down the Pirates’ three-year, $30 million offer to sign a one-year, $11 million deal with the Nationals.
Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review notes that the Pirates also tried to keep Derrek Lee back by tendering him a contract in December via the arbitration process, which would have locked him into a one-year deal worth at least $7 million. Lee turned it down and is still trying to find a home as a free agent.
So why won’t anyone take the Pirates’ money? General manager Neal Huntington tried to explain:
Honestly, we just need to keep playing better ball. When we win, we’re going to see those results change, along with a lot of other things. We have a great pitcher-friendly ballpark. We have a lot of pieces in place. But the winning has to happen first. And it will. We still feel very good about the team we’ll have in 2012.
He’s right, of course, although to some extent it’s a chicken-or-egg situation because not being able to sign veteran free agents they target is, in theory at least, holding the Pirates back from doing more winning. As it stands now, Pittsburgh hasn’t finished .500 since 1992 and last season’s 72-90 record was the Pirates’ best since 2004.
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.