In case you missed it, the Astros, by virtue of losing their ninth straight game, clinched the first overall pick in 2014 MLB draft. Technically, they can still end up tied with the Marlins at 57-105 if they win the rest of their games and the Marlins lose out, but they’d own the tiebreaker by virtue of finishing with a worse record than the Marlins in 2012.
Which, of course they did. This will be their third straight year with the first overall pick.
Fortunately for the rest of the league, the Astros’ tanking hasn’t yet paid off as well as the Nationals’ back-to-back No. 1 overall picks when they landed Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. There are high hopes attached to shortstop Carlos Correa and right-hander Mark Appel, but neither was a slam-dunk No. 1 pick.
On the other hand, next year’s likely will be: N.C. State left-hander Carlos Rodon looks like the best draft prospect since Harper was picked in 2010.
And it hardly seems fair to the rest of the league that the Astros will get him as a reward for their efforts to assemble the game’s worst team. It’d be nice if some team that wasn’t necessarily trying to lose had a chance instead. That’s not a slam of the Astros — bottoming out was absolutely the right course for the organization. It’s just that MLB shouldn’t be so generous in rewarding them for it. A 10-team lottery in the NBA fashion (the worse teams get more ping-pong balls and such) seems like a better plan. Because even though the Astros’ run as the game’s worst team is just about over, teams bottoming out when they have little chance of contending is likely to become a more common occurrence.
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.