Aroldis Chapman took a step back last year, walking a ton more guys than he had previously. Yesterday Dusty Baker told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that Chapman had some family issues that may have affected his focus, and that, for him, family problems are trickier than they are for other guys:
“Last year he had some off-the-field stuff going on, Cuban family stuff. That makes it tough … Right now he’s different than most,” Baker said. “Most of the other Latins can go home. He can’t go home. If he goes home he might not be able to come back out.”
One always has to take this stuff with a grain of salt — the spring lends itself to guys talking about past troubles as if they were isolated incidents — but I think Dusty Baker has earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to talking about and dealing with his players’ personal problems.
I’ve mentioned this a lot in the past, but I thought that Baker’s public handling of Joey Votto’s anxiety issues a couple of years ago was near perfect. He was likewise great in dealing with Mike Leake’s weird shirt-theft thing. Baker seems to get that kind of stuff — and is able to talk about that kind of stuff — in a way that is more clear and intelligent and with more empathy than most managers.
It’s one of the reasons, I’ll wager, why he’s so popular with his players, basically everywhere he’s been.
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.