Padres 3, Dodgers 1: The coolest thing about baseball is that all of us yakkers can spend two months talking about teams’ strengths and weaknesses and How It Will All Go, and then the games start and none of it matters one damn bit. Like the back end of the Dodgers’ bullpen, for example. Brian Wilson came in to protect a 1-0 lead, gave up a tying home run to pinch hitter Seth Smith and then a bunch of clownshoes play by Wilson and the other Dodgers allowed two more in and that was the game.
Yes, I do believe that over the course of 162 games the Dodgers bullpen — particularly Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen — will be a team strength. So this isn’t me reading too much into one game at the expense of those 162 and thus tossing out previous predictions and analysis. But we don’t consume baseball over 162 games. We consume them one game at a time, and in those individual games, anything can happen. Like Brian Wilson getting lit up for three runs in the eighth. We can never predict that, even if we can predict what may happen in six months worth of his appearances. When all you can really know with even a moderate degree of certainty is how things will play out over long periods of time, the short periods of time become that much more exciting. Unless you were a Dodgers fan last night of course.
Tough luck for Hyun-Jin Ryu, who hardly broke a sweat in keeping the padres scoreless on three hits thought seven innings, while tossing only 88 pitches. If it’s later in the season he probably comes out for the eighth here. But dude, Wilson and Jansen! That’s how it was all planned out!
Well, Der mentsh trakht un Got lakht. As do the makers of the 162-game schedule.
Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $100,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Opening Day’s games (March 31). It’s $25 to join and first prize is $15,000. Starts at 1:05pm ET on Opening Day. Here’s the FanDuel link.
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.