White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko isn’t getting a city-by-city farewell tour like Derek Jeter, but the 38-year-old six-time All-Star is retiring after 18 seasons in the majors.
Konerko has struggled in his final season, hitting .236 with five homers and a .650 OPS in 64 games as a part-timer after 15 years as an everyday player, so he’ll finish just short of reaching 450 homers and 2,500 hits for his career.
Konerko spoke to Scott Merkin of MLB.com about how he feels with things winding down:
I can say this statement: I will be an ex-baseball player next month. It’s the truth. Since the All-Star break, it’s becoming more real. It’s there, you know. You can feel it coming. But like everything, I’m trying to spin it to where it’s not a bad thing.
It’s just part of the life cycle of the player. I’ve been lucky to play for a long time. I’m trying not to look at it as a sad occasion. I hope nobody else is. I’m graduating on to other things and there’s a time for this. Every player has to go through this stuff. I’m lucky because mine came a lot later than most. I feel lucky for that.
Konerko had a helluva career, especially considering he was once written off as a prospect bust after struggling in his first few cracks at the big leagues with the Dodgers. He’s played more games in a White Sox uniform than everyone except Hall of Famer Luke Appling, hit more home runs in a White Sox uniform than everyone except Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, and ranks 10th in franchise history in Wins Above Replacement.
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.