Kirk Gibson appeared in over his head at times in the postseason last year, but now he’s back demonstrating why he was the 2011 NL Manager of the Year in the first two games of 2012.
After not using him there all spring, Gibson inserted Chris Young into the second spot in the order Friday against Tim Lincecum. Young made it pay off in a hurry, hitting a two-run homer in the first inning as part of Arizona’s 5-4 victory.
With the Giants going to a left-hander in Madison Bumgarner today, Aaron Hill moved back into the No. 2 spot, with Young batting fifth. Hill was the Diamondbacks’ regular No. 2 hitter last season after arriving in the Kelly Johnson trade and did a great job, but he slumped all spring and was dropped to eighth Friday. Given his career numbers, that’s closer to where he belongs against righties. Versus lefties, though, he is a decent enough choice to hit second. And he’s looked more than decent today, homering in his first two at-bats to drive in three of the Diamondbacks’ four runs so far.
In this day and age of everyone always wanting to know their role, it can be difficult for managers to try to play matchups and mess with their lineups. Fortunately, Gibson commands a whole lot of respect in the Arizona clubhouse and his players seem well in tune with his choices. Batting Hill second against lefties and low in the order against righties makes a whole lot of sense. It might not be a permanent arrangement — there’s really no need for anything to be a permanent arrangement — but it’s certainly worked for the Diamondbacks for two games.
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.