Ichiro Suzuki set for 2,500th hit; will he get to 3,000?

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Probably tonight or perhaps tomorrow, Ichiro Suzuki will get his 2,500th hit as a major leaguer. He’s currently just one away, though that was also the case a couple of days ago; Ichiro  went 0-for-4 on Sunday and was given a rare day off on Monday.

Obviously, Ichiro’s pace is slowing down. The hope was his down 2011 season was just an aberration, but after 67 games in 2012, the 38-year-old is sporting the same .645 OPS he finished 2011 with.

It also looks like he’ll finish well shy of 200 hits once again. He’s at 71 through the Mariners’ first 69 games, putting him on pace to finish at 167.

Through 10 big-league seasons, Ichiro never finished with fewer than 208 hits. He peaked at 262 in 2004. However, he slipped to 184 last year, even though he played in 161 games.

If Ichiro finishes with 167 hits this season, it means he’ll enter 2013 with 2,595 hits. Barring a sudden resurgence at ages 39 and 40, he’ll have to play regularly into 2015 in order to reach 3,000. He’ll be 41 then, and chances are he’ll be a real liability as a starting outfielder. There’s a real threat that no one is going to want him, at least not as a starter. His five-year, $90 million contract with the Mariners expires at the end of this season, and with the way things are looking now, the team might opt to move on.

So, maybe Ichiro will simply pack it in before he gets to 3,000. It’s not like his legacy is in doubt. One can argue whether a singles-hitting right fielder such as Ichiro belongs in the Hall of Fame, but there’s no doubt he’s getting in. He’s a legend regardless of whether he finishes his MLB career with 3,000 hits. In truth, he already has 3,777 anyway, adding in his remarkable numbers from Japan. He doesn’t have anything left to prove.

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).