Michael Young's next goal: 2,001
Can you get 3,000?
"Two-thousand-one," said the ever-pragmatic Young, "is my next goal."
Prior to Sunday's exhilarating 5-3 comeback victory, Rangers manager Ron Washington said he was certain the Rangers' all-time hits leader would reach the milestone in Sunday's series finale with the Cleveland Indians. After all, Young walloped a ninth-inning home run to center Friday night and although he made the final out in Saturday's game, it was a hard smash.
Why wouldn't Young's season-long mashing continue?
"I would have loved to have gone 500 feet to the opposite field," Young said, "but that doesn’t really matter to me."
Young struck out to start the second inning and recorded career hit No. 1,999 in the fifth inning with a dribbler toward third that barely got by the pitcher's mound. Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall didn't have a chance. The dinker was the first hit off Tomlin.
Then in the seventh, with the Rangers trailing 2-0 and Young looking to spark a humbled offense after Elvis Andrus and Josh Hamilton made two quick outs, the 34-year-old fouled off the first three offerings from impressive Indians starter and former Texas Tech draft pick Josh Tomlin. Young took a cut at Tomlin's fourth pitch, an 86 mph cutter and barely got wood on it.
"At that point in the game we were losing," Young said. "I had two strikes on me, I was just trying to make contact and I’ll take it any way I can."
The ball dribbled onto the infield grass, making its way up the third-base line. Chisenhall again had no shot and Young had 2,000 hits. It wasn't exactly a Derek Jeter homer for No. 3000, but it would do.
"I know Jeter has had a bunchof those [infield hits] and he has 3,000 right now," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "That’s a base hit. That counts the same."
After Young reached first, the 37,431 at Rangers Ballpark stood and applauded the team captain. The 25-year-old Tomlin, who had at a three-hit shutout working to that point, tipped his cap to Young, and Indians manager Manny Acta and other players in the visiting dugout clapped.
"That means a lot," Young said. "I gave him [Tomlin] a thumbs-up and after a while, was like, 'OK, lets get back to work.' But, I appreciated what he did."
Young, though, quickly made his way back to third base with his glove after the suddenly struggling again Nelson Cruz grounded out to end the seventh. In the top of the eighth, Indians left-fielder Michael Brantley homered to make it 3-0. Tomlin couldn't close it out. He walked Mike Napoli to start the eighth and gave up a hard single to Mitch Moreland and his night was over.
Tomlin got no relief from the bullpen as David Murphy drove in a run pinch-hitting, Ian Kinsler walked with the bases loaded, Elvis Andrus lined in two runs and Josh Hamilton's fielder's choice scored the fifth run of another late comeback against Cleveland. Somehow, the Rangers, left for dead, managed to maintain their one-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels in the American League West.
And, that's all that really mattered to Young, who was the toast of a happy clubhouse that reverberated to the sounds of post-game music on the stereo system.
It took just a little prodding from the media for Young to acknowledge that his feat Sunday night was no ordinary occurrence.
"It means something. The last thing I want to do is belittle it," Young said. "I know there haven’t been many guys that have accomplished it and from what I understand I got here pretty quickly, so I’m very happy with it and it means a lot to me, but at the same time I’m trying to see the big picture."
Just as Young told Tomlin to get back to work in the seventh inning, Young didn't stick to the topic of 2,000 very long and 3,000 didn't even have a chance. For Young, it's always back to work.
"I don’t think he’s too worried about the number of hits he has in his career," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "I think he’s worried about the world series championships that he’s won in his career and he hasn’t got one of those yet. So, the goal is to win games. We’re all happy for him. It’s another milestone for him in his career."
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