Raul Ibanez notches 2,000th career hit in style

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Angels DH Raul Ibanez joined the 2,000-hit club in a big way in Saturday night’s game against the Mets. With closer Jose Valverde on the mound in the bottom of the ninth inning to protect a 6-3 Mets lead, the Angels mounted a two-out rally. David Freese singled, then Erick Aybar walked to bring up the 41-year-old Ibanez. Ibanez took a ball, then took Valverde deep to right-field for a game-tying three-run home run to tie the game at six apiece.

In case you think the scene sounds familiar, you’re right. In the bottom of the ninth with two outs in Game 1 of the 2012 ALCS, Valverde (then with the Tigers) served up a game-tying two-run home run to Ibanez (then with the Yankees) to tie the game at four-all. History seems to have repeated itself.

With nine more runs batted in, Ibanez will become the 88th player in baseball history with 2,000 hits, 300 home runs, and 1,200 RBI in his career.

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.