Before we put the MLB regular season in the rear-view mirror and focus our attention on the postseason, let’s look back at some of the top moments from an unforgettable year.
5. Ichiro Suzuki collects 3,000th hit
The 42-year-old Ichiro reached a hallowed milestone when he tripled off the right field wall at Coors Field to become the 30th player in major league history to compile 3,000 hits. He’s the first player from Japan to reach that mark and just the fourth one born outside of the United States to do so, including Roberto Clemente (Puerto Rico), Rod Carew (Panama), and Rafael Palmeiro (Cuba). The achievement is even more remarkable when you take into account that Ichiro didn’t begin his MLB career until he was 27, three years older at his debut than any other member of the 3,000-hit club.
4. Max Scherzer strikes out 20 hitters
For the first time since his departure two years ago, Scherzer faced off against his former team in the Detroit Tigers and put together a masterful performance. The Nationals ace became just the fourth pitcher in MLB history to record 20 strikeouts in a game, joining a prestigious club of Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, and Kerry Wood. Fourteen of the 20 punchouts were of the swinging variety, while his 35 swings and misses altogether were the most by any pitcher in the last 15 seasons. Of his 119 pitches, a staggering 96 were thrown for strikes, giving him almost as many strikeouts as pitches called balls (23).
3. Bartolo Colon hits first career home run
At 42 years old, Colon is now the oldest player in MLB history to hit his first career home run. Known for his helmet making contact with the ground more often than his bat making contact with the ball, the beloved pitcher turned on a fastball from James Shields that wound up landing 365 feet away. The dugout’s reaction along with Colon’s classic smirk on his face as he slowly made his way around the bases – 30.6 seconds to be exact – was everything you could hope for.
The tensions resulting from last year’s heated ALDS between the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays boiled over on May 15 when reliever Matt Bush plunked Bautista in the ribs with his first pitch of the eighth inning. Bautista took that as response to his notorious bat flip on a home run that proved to be the game-winner as well as the series-winner for Toronto. On a subsequent groundout, Bautista retaliated with a takeout slide on Odor at second base that ignited a physical confrontation between the two in which the latter clocked the former in the jaw. If the Blue Jays beat the Baltimore Orioles in the Wild Card game on Tuesday night, the two teams will clash for the first time since the incident occurred in what would certainly be an epic showdown.
In honor of Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, who died in a tragic boating accident on September 25, every Marlins player wore a jersey with his name and number on it in the team’s first game following his passing, but the tributes didn’t end there.
When Gordon stepped to the plate to lead off the bottom of the first inning, he did so wearing Fernandez’s helmet while imitating his batting stance in the right side of the box. After taking a pitch, he then switched to his natural left-handed stance and proceeded to launch his first home run of the season and just the ninth of his six-year career in dramatic fashion. Gordon was so overcome with emotions – just like everyone who was watching what had just transpired – that he couldn’t hold back the tears as he crossed home plate while pointing to the sky in remembrance of his late friend.
If there was ever a time to abstain from the “there’s no crying in baseball” rule, this was it.