An otherwise innocuous leadoff single in the second inning Thursday night turned out to be an historic hit for Shin-Soo Choo.
The Texas Rangers’ primary designated hitter collected the 1,500th hit of his MLB career with a rope to center off Matt Harvey in an 11-4 victory over the Los Angeles Angels, and afterward borrowed from Adrian Beltre on his achievement.
Beltre was notorious for saying that his hitting achievements, including 3,166 career hits, were mostly the result of his advanced age. Choo turns 37 in July.
“I’ve never had 200 hits in a season,” Choo said. “I’ve played just long enough to have these numbers. It’s not more than that. It’s great, but I’m still going to play this year and next year, and who knows, maybe a couple years more.”
The hit, he said, was significant to him because it added to his resume as the greatest Korean player in MLB and one of the all-time best from Asia. Only Ichiro Suzuki from Japan has more hits than Choo, twice as many more.
Choo has the most home runs by an Asian-born player and was the first to hit for the cycle. Those things mean something to Choo because it means so much to the millions of baseball fans in Korea.
“One thing that’s really specially about it is I think about first Asian or first Korean player to do something,” Choo said. “That’s what it means to me.”
But here’s the catch: Hit 1,501 meant more to Choo and the Rangers.
It came in the fifth inning, with the Rangers up 6-2 but on the verge of wasting a bases-loaded no-outs situation. Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Delino DeShields had flown out too shallow for Asdrubal Cabrera to attempt to tag and score, and Choo was up with two outs.
He blooped a double the other way to clear the bases.
“It was a huge it,” manager Chris Woodward said. “The game was still in question. The first two guys pop up. That’s the not-giving-in mentality. Choo is a guy you can count on every day of the week, but not being afraid to get jammed, he gets a little jam shot to left and clears the bases.”
The situation wasn’t lost on Choo. The Rangers’ offense so far this season hasn’t missed many chances to score, a big reason why they entered Friday with a 5-2 record and riding a three-game winning streak.
Choo, who was hit by Harvey to start the game and scored on Joey Gallo’s three-run homer, helped put the game out of reach at 9-2.
“That’s more exciting than hitting 1,500,” Choo said. “We up were four runs up, but that doesn’t we don’t need any extra scores.”