First baseman Ryan Howard, 33 years old and still suffering lingering effects of an Achilles injury suffered in Game Five of the 2011 NLDS, should be on the trading block according to David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News. The lefty slugger entered tonight’s game against the Diamondbacks with a .262/.299/.476 line and is in the second year of a five-year, $125 million contract signed in April 2010.
As the Yankees’ acquisition of Vernon Wells shows, moving an albatross contract isn’t impossible. The Angels are paying $9.5 million this year and $18.6 million next year for Wells to play in the Bronx. The Phillies would similarly have to assume a very large portion of Howard’s remaining contract.
The Phillies are going to be paying Howard regardless, and with a free-agent market that features potential replacements like Mike Morse, Corey Hart, Mark Reynolds and a gaggle of bounce-back candidates, the Phillies could pay Howard the bulk of his salary to play for another team and use the remaining dollars to sign a capable replacement. This is about the talent the Phillies need at the premium positions that they are going to need to fill, and if trading Howard and eating a significant chunk of dollars can land them a potential second baseman or third baseman or shortstop of the future, they would be wise to move heaven and earth to make it happen.
The Phillies, if they continue dragging their feet, will head towards the deadline with the ability to trade free agents-to-be Chase Utley, Michael Young, Roy Halladay, along with Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon, both under long-term contracts, potentially. Howard could be among them as well.
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 seven 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.