Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports tweeted last night that the Phillies are “strongly pursuing” set-up men to pitch the eighth inning behind closer Jonathan Papelbon, namely Edward Mujica. Passan says the Phillies are believed to be willing to go up to three years for such a bullpen piece.
Though it doesn’t make sense from a logical, team construction point of view, it does make sense because it’s Ruben Amaro at the helm. The Phillies already have a set-up man in Mike Adams, who will earn $7 million in 2014, the final guaranteed year of a two-year deal signed last off-season. Adams suffered from several injuries, including hip soreness, a back strain, biceps irritation, and a season-ending tear of his labrum and rotator cuff, so perhaps the team is skeptical of his ability to be healthy and effective. However, the bullpen is also chock full of high-upside arms, including lefties Antonio Bastardo and Jake Diekman, who finished the 2013 season with a 2.32 and 2.58 ERA, respectively, along with impressive strikeout rates.
With $127.5 million committed to eight players already, before factoring in arbitration-eligible players and pre-arbs, the Phillies have a limited amount of wiggle room unless they decide to ignore the $189 million luxury tax threshold, or last season’s Opening Day payroll under $160 million — attendance has been slipping fast at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies finished 16 games under .500, so they’re more than Marlon Byrd and a set-up man away from being a realistic contender in the NL East again.
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.
The Red Sox defeated the Rays 3-2 on Sunday afternoon thanks to some nifty base running by second baseman Dustin Pedroia. The win marks their 11th in a row, inching them closer to a division title.
With the game tied 2-2 in the top of the tenth, Pedroia led off with a single off of reliever Eddie Gamboa. After Xander Bogaerts lined out, David Ortiz ripped a double into the right-center field gap. Pedroia, running hard the whole way, rounded third and motored towards home plate, but the relay throw home — from center fielder Jaff Decker to second baseman Logan Forsythe to catcher Luke Maile — beat Pedroia by a good 10 feet. He was a dead duck.
Pedroia danced around Maile’s glove, avoiding the tag. Maile, on his side, continued to attempt to apply the tag on Pedroia. When he finally did, the ball was knocked loose and Pedroia scored the go-ahead run. The play was reviewed but the call was upheld.
Joe Kelly kept the Rays off the board in the bottom of the 10th, securing the 3-2 victory for the Red Sox.
The Blue Jays also won on Sunday, meaning the Red Sox still have a 5.5-game lead in the AL East. Any combination of two Red Sox wins and Blue Jays losses will seal up the division for the Red Sox. The two clubs round out the regular season with a three-game set against each other in Boston.