Zack Greinke

Zack Greinke is your first-third NL Cy Young

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The last couple of years I’ve done first-third awards at the end of May, handing out Rookie of the Years, Cy Youngs and MVPs at the end of May based on what had happened 54 or so games in.

This year, I’m going to call one a little early: Zack Greinke will be the first-third Cy Young in the NL.

Greinke has looked terrific right since the start of the spring, and he was especially exceptional in Saturday’s season debut, shutting out the Cardinals for seven innings. He allowed three hits, walked none and struck out seven.

The Greinke we’re seeing now looks a whole lot like the one who won the 2009 AL Cy Young Award with the Royals. He ended that year with a 2.16 ERA and 242 strikeouts in 229 1/3 innings. The two years since have been modest disappointments, as he finished with a 4.17 ERA in his last year in K.C. and a 3.83 ERA in his first in Milwaukee, but he did strike out a career-best 10.5 batters per nine innings last season, showing his stuff was intact.

Whether he’ll keep it together for the whole year remains to be seen. He has plenty of incentive, this being his walk year, but Greinke seems to look at the world a bit differently than most of the rest of us and his results haven’t always matched his stuff. I’ll trust him to keep it going for a couple of months anyway. For the full year, I think I’d still rather take my chances with Roy Halladay or Clayton Kershaw.

Red Sox set a new major league record with 11 strikeouts in a row

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 20: Starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez #52 of the Boston Red Sox works the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 20, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images
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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 clinch NL West on Charlie Culberson’s walk-off home run

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 20: Charlie Culberson #6 of the Los Angeles Dodgers runs to first base after hitting a single RBI in the second inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on July 20, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
Matt Hazlett/Getty Images
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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.