Not much has gone right for the Phillies in the early going. They are 1-3 in the Grapefruit League thus far, having been disappointed several times already by Cuban pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. Roberto Hernandez wasn’t sharp in his first outing. Jonathan Pettibone has had shoulder problems again. The cherry on top of the sundae, though, was when they learned that Cole Hamels would not be ready for Opening Day due to tendinitis in his right shoulder.
Thankfully, the Phillies have received a dose of good news about Hamels. He is progressing well and may only miss one or two starts at the beginning of the regular season. He is on track to throw live batting practice next week. Via MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki:
“Everything felt really good,” he said at Bright House Field. “My pitches are really coming along. I’m really able to execute down in the zone. I know that’s something Bob [McClure, pitching coach] preaches to everybody. I know I’m pretty good at doing that, so to get into my second bullpen and execute down in the zone, correct pitches within a pitch, having the control, it feels great.”
The Phillies are thin on pitching depth as is, so a healthy and productive Hamels is tantamount to the Phillies remaining at least somewhat competitive throughout the 2014 season. The left-hander finished the past season with a 3.60 ERA in 220 innings, ending a stretch of three consecutive seasons between 2010-12 where he finished with an ERA of 3.06 or lower.
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.