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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2017 — No. 14: Adrian Beltre racks up his 3,000th hit

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We’re a few short days away from 2018 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2017. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were more akin to tabloid drama. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

Your more astute baseball analysts and observers have considered Adrian Beltre a future Hall of Famer for a few years now. A lot of casual fans, however, likely didn’t think of him in those terms until the afternoon of July 30, when he hit a 3-0 fastball off of the Orioles’ Wade Miley for a double. The hit put runners on second and third with one out. It also put Beltre at 3,000 for his career.

Beltre became the 31st player of the 3,000-hit club, and the first native of the Dominican Republic to gain membership. That plateau has meant near-automatic induction into the Hall of Fame over the years, with only the PED-associated Rafael Palmeiro excluded among Hall-eligible players.

Beltre’s Hall case is not all tied up in hits of course. There’s the power — he has 462 homers and 613 doubles in his career — and his defense — he has five gold gloves, and that likely underrates his defensive production. He is lauded across the game for his fantastic clubhouse presence and team leadership qualities. He has aged amazingly well too. 2017 was his 20th big league season and, though he missed time to various injuries, he still put up an All-Star caliber batting line of .312/.383/.532. He may be a bit more fragile than he used to be, but his skills have shown few signs of degradation.  The 3,000th hit may not have come during the main course of his career, but it’s likely not merely the cherry on top of his dessert either.

Here are some other milestones of note in 2017:

  • As suggested above, Beltre also joined the 450-homer club, the 600-double club and reached 5,000 career total bases;
  • Albert Pujols hit his 600th home run on June 3, doing so with a grand slam. He also became the all-time RBI leader for Dominican-born Major Leaguers with his 1,832nd RBI passing Manny Ramirez back in April;
  • Matt Holliday, Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon Phillips, Victor Martinez, Nick Markakis, and Jose Reyes all notched their 2,000th career hit. Reyes also joined the 500-stolen base club;
  • Miguel Cabrera hit his 450th career home run in May;
  • Aaron Judge set the rookie record for home runs in a season with 52, passing Mark McGwire’s old record of 49. Cody Bellinger set the NL rookie home run record at 39, passing Wally Berger and Frank Robinson’s old record of 38. We’ll talk more about them later in the countdown;
  • Ichiro Suzuki vecame the all-time leader for hits for a player born outside of the United States with his 3,054th career hit, passing Rod Carew, who was born in Panama;
  • Chase Utley and Edwin Encarnacion each knocked in their 1,000th career run;
  • Robinson Cano hit his 500th career double;
  • Chris Sale became the fastest pitcher to 1,500 strikeouts in baseball history;
  • Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, James Shields and Jon Lester each recorded their 2,000th career strikeout. Lester also joined the 150-win club;
  • Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman each saved their 200th game;
  • Corey Kluber struck out his 1,000th career batter;
  • Zach Britton set the American League for most consecutive saves, notching his 55th in a row;
  • Joe Maddon won his 1,000th game as a manager.

Congratulations guys.

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

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I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.