Shane Robinson

Lineup change suggests Cardinals are ready for small ball

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If you did a million World Series simulations last week — and I assume someone out there probably did — Game 5 almost surely ended up being the lowest scoring contest of the bunch. It’s simply a rematch of Game 1 with Jon Lester and Adam Wainwright facing off again, but this time it’s in the NL park, with no designated hitter. Also, Busch Stadium is a tougher place to hit than Fenway anyway. Those John Lackey-Michael Wacha matchups may also have projected as pitcher’s duels, but they were both slated for Fenway and the DH.

So, yes, on paper, tonight appears likely to be a low scoring game. That’s probably a big reason why Cardinals manager Mike Matheny decided to not only start Shane Robinson but to put him in the two hole ahead of Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran. If leadoff man Matt Carpenter singles or walk to lead off an inning, it’s a good bet that Robinson is going to bunt him over or that Matheny will at least try a hit and run. It may be the latter, since Robinson actually doesn’t have any successful sac bunts in his major league career.

And that’s not necessarily such a horrible plan; one run could make a whole lot of difference in tonight’s game. But it’ll sting in the end if the Cardinals again happen to find themselves up down two runs in the ninth with two outs and their No. 2 hitter up. Beltran didn’t get his chance in Game 4 because of Kolten Wong’s miscue. Tonight’s it’s Matheny’s machinations that could cost him an at-bat.

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 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 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.