Joe Nathan was supposed to put an end to the late-inning problems for the Tigers. After a couple of years of dealing with Jose Valverde and moving setup men into the closer’s role, the Tigers said “screw it” this past season and paid out money for a Proven Closer. ™ Except Joe Nathan has been pretty awful and the patchwork in which Brad Ausmus has engaged hasn’t been successful either.
Last night, after Nathan pitched in two consecutive games (and wasn’t all that good in them anyway) Ausmus called on Joba Chamberlain to protect a 3-2 ninth inning lead. It went like this:
- Brock Holt single;
- Dustin Pedroia walk;
- David Ortiz three-run homer which essentially ended the game.
Chamberlain gave up another single after that and the inning could’ve gotten even more out of control if it hadn’t been for a subsequent double play. When it was all said and done, the Tigers ended last night with a bullpen ERA of 4.77 which is the worst in the American League.
Chamberlain had been pretty effective on the year until last night, but performances like that are what give managers pause about putting them in save situations. As do contracts like Nathan’s, for what it’s worth. The idea of just pitching your setup man in the ninth inning a la Joaquin Benoit just presents so many hurdles, real or contrived, just doesn’t come easily to most teams.
Or course, it’s probably worth noting that Joaquin Benoit was pretty darn good last season. Just sayin’!
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.