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Matt Kemp optimistic he’ll be ready for Opening Day

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If you recall, surgery on Matt Kemp’s left (non-throwing) shoulder in October was a bit more involved than originally anticipated, as Dr. Neal ElAttrache repaired a partially torn labrum and rotator cuff damage. This has left some doubt about whether he’ll be ready for the start of the 2013 season, but Kemp told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com today that he’s healing “ahead of schedule” and is optimistic he’ll be ready for Opening Day.

“That’s my goal,” said Kemp, wearing a Dodgers jersey with Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 and accompanied by his mother. “I’m hitting off the tee, no soft toss yet. I have my good days and bad days. It’s still a little sore. But being ready for the season is all that matters.”

Kemp conceded that he may not be 100 percent by the start of spring training and that he expects the Dodgers to take it easy with him, but he’s much more concerned about his status for the start of the season. Of course, even if Kemp is ready for Opening Day, that doesn’t mean he’ll be the same hitter right away. Look no further than Kemp’s teammate, Adrian Gonzalez, for an example of what shoulder surgery can do to a hitter’s power production. For all their big spending, the Dodgers’ lineup isn’t exactly a juggernaut, so what version of Kemp we’ll see will be an important factor in their postseason hopes.

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)
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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)
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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.