The stunning thing about the Giants’ success this year was the way the offense fueled the team in the second half, even with All-Star Game MVP Melky Cabrera gone due to suspension.
The Giants ranked third in the NL with 380 runs scored in the second half. Only the Brewers (392) and Nationals (383) were better, and no other team was within 20 runs of San Francisco.
The pitching wasn’t bad either, ranking sixth with 303 runs allowed during the same span. However, considering that AT&T played as a very good pitcher’s park this year, the offense was even better than the raw run total suggests, while the pitching wasn’t quite as good.
Unfortunately, through two games against the Reds, the Giants haven’t gotten a lot of hitting or pitching. Still, it’s the offense that’s been especially disappointing, particularly after the Giants caught a break in Game 1 when Johnny Cueto left in the first. Completely unable to capitalize, the Giants scored just two runs then and were later shut out by Bronson Arroyo and company on Sunday.
Summer acquisition Hunter Pence has been the biggest culprit, racking up dreadful at-bats behind Buster Posey in the order. He’s 0-for-8 so far. The lineup’s first three hitters — Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval — are a combined 3-for-26.
Changes seem unlikely. The two most vulnerable players in the Giants’ order — first baseman Brandon Belt and left fielder Gregor Blanco — have actually looked the best of anyone besides Posey. Belt walked twice Saturday and had the only hit off Arroyo on Sunday. Blanco was 2-for-3 with a walk Saturday. No one else is likely to suddenly take a seat.
The Giants are probably doomed now, but perhaps the change of scenery to Cincinnati will do the team some good. The Giants hit 31 homers and averaged 3.8 runs per game at home this year, compared to 72 homers and 5.1 runs per game on the road.
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.