Rickey slides into Cooperstown this weekend

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One of my all-time favorite players and the greatest leadoff man in
baseball history goes into the Hall of Fame this weekend, and there are
plenty of amusing Rickey Henderson stories popping up in preparation
for his induction.

For instance, Monty Poole of the San Jose Mercury News has an entertaining article
about Henderson’s mom, Bobbie, who was convinced that she was having a
girl until giving birth to Rickey Nelson Henley Henderson on Christmas
Day in 1958:

He was my Christmas baby and people always said he was like me. See,
Rickey’s always been stout. He wasn’t chubby, but he was solid.
Everybody would tell him he had his mama’s legs, his mama’s hips and
his mama’s little waist. I used to wonder if the reason he was built
like me was because I wanted a girl so bad. I thought I was going to
have a girl. I would even say I hoped it was a girl. …

Rickey got knocked out once playing football in high school, and
that really shook me up. I didn’t want him out there. He just got the
wind knocked out of him, but that was enough for me. I didn’t come out
and tell him to play baseball. I kept telling him I was with him,
whatever he did, but I really didn’t want him playing football.

Instead of being a football-playing girl, Henderson played the
fourth-most games in baseball history, notched 3,055 hits, went to the
All-Star game 10 times, won the AL MVP in 1990, set the single-season
steals record with 130 in 1982, and ranked as the all-time leader in
stolen bases (1,406), walks (2,190), and runs scored (2,295) at the
time of his retirement following an amazing 25-year career.

Years ago, when asked if he felt that Henderson was qualified for
Cooperstown, Bill James replied: “If you could split him in two, you’d
have two Hall of Famers.” He’ll go into the Hall of Fame in one piece
Sunday, but not before trying to get over his fear of public speaking
by practicing his induction speech for the past month in front of students at Laney College:

Speech and me don’t get along sometimes. I’m not a doctor or
professor, so for me to go and write a speech or read a speech, it’s
kind of like putting a tie too tight around my neck. It helped me a
lot. I had a lot of fun with it. I never thought I could come back to
class and have fun. But it gave me a chance to do something different
and work on some things. I talk so fast and my tongue kind of takes off
sometimes. … Shoot, I was scared the first time I got up and read to
the class.

Along with being an inner-circle Hall of Famer and easy first-ballot
selection Henderson was famous for speaking in the third person and
producing a never-ending supply of anecdotes (some real and some apocryphal)
thanks to his famous Rickey-speak. Here’s hoping that all the work he’s
put in polishing his speech won’t keep him from at least a few Yogi
Berra-like moments Sunday.

Red Sox set a new major league record with 11 strikeouts in a row

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 20: Starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez #52 of the Boston Red Sox works the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 20, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images
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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 clinch NL West on Charlie Culberson’s walk-off home run

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 20: Charlie Culberson #6 of the Los Angeles Dodgers runs to first base after hitting a single RBI in the second inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on July 20, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
Matt Hazlett/Getty Images
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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.