LAKELAND, FLORIDA — Hello, folks. How’s the weather? Here’s it’s just dandy. A bit nippy now — only about 50 degrees at 7:30 AM — but I suspect it’ll get much nicer as the day wears on, so don’t worry about me any. I’ll be just fine.
Thus begins my annual trek around spring training. This year, for the first time since 2010, I’m in Florida. I’m a bit ambivalent about that. Arizona is such a much more convenient place for this sort of thing. The parks are closer together and the planning much easier. And, while neither is ideal, if I have to choose one vibe or aesthetic over the other, the Arizona thing beats the Florida thing in my mind. But I suppose people’s mileage varies.
One benefit Florida has is more marquee teams. Yes, east coast bias and all of that, but there is value in going to see the Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Braves, Phillies and all of that. They’re popular and fans of those teams have been underserved in our spring training coverage over the past few years, so here we are. I am excited to revisit those teams and those fan bases in the spring.
I’m also excited to see Masahiro Tanaka tomorrow. He goes in Tampa and I suppose I’ll be one of a gabillion reporters there. I am getting a bit of inadvertent Yankees overload, though, as by coincidence they’re here in Lakeland where I am today to play the Tigers. And they’re going to be in Dunedin on Sunday where I planned to go to catch that ballpark as a fan (never been there). I think that’s it, though. On Monday I head toward the gulf and points south and will see some other teams. I’m not making it to the Atlantic coast to see the Cards and Mets and Nats because, well, Florida is hard to do in a week.
Anyway, I’m heading over to the Tigers’ clubhouse to see Baseball’s Most Handsome Manager and talk to some Tigers players. I’ll be checking in later today here, and I’ll be tweeting photos and observations all day via my Twitter feed.
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.