Five things we learned Sunday: All hail, Ichiro

12:20 AM ET

Did anything happen Sunday? Yes, stuff did indeed happen.

1. Ichiro Suzuki records 3,000th career hit: In a 2002 profile in Sports Illustarted, Ichiro told writer S.L. Price, “I’m unique. I’m a very rare kind of player.” Ichiro always understood himself better than we did, never doubted his ability to keep playing into his 40s, kept stretching and gyrating and we laugh when he says he wants to play until he’s 50, but if anyone can play forever it will be Ichiro. As Jim Caple writes, Ichiro followed meticulous standards to get to 3,000 hits.

A Seattle Mariners fan tweeted me, saying he probably didn’t appreciate Ichiro enough when he was with Seattle. I think there’s some truth to that. After breaking in with the 116-win Mariners in that magical season of 2001 when he won MVP and American League ookie of the Year honors, the Mariners had two more near-playoff seasons and then fell apart. The only thing they had going for many years was Ichiro’s base hits. They eventually seemed meaningless in an avalanche of defeats, Ichiro stranded yet again at second base.

Ichiro looked done after last season, when he hit just .229. But he has excelled in a lesser role this season and has even learned a new trick — he’s drawing walks at 10.1 percent clip, compared to a career rate of 6.0 percent (which includes a high rate of intentional walks earlier in his career). He’s hitting .317, is still quick to first base and covers enough ground in the outfield that he was playing center field Sunday. He’s a national treasure in Japan and we should view him as one over here as well. Enjoy your next eight seasons in the majors, Ichiro.

2. Alex Rodriguez‘s career appears over: He announced he’ll play his final game for the New York Yankees on Friday and work next season as a coach and adviser. He’s not retiring — he’s owed $21 million next season, after all — but will get released and it seems improbable any team will want to sign a 41-year-old DH hitting .204 with a .252 OBP. Some will think of A-Rod as a liar and a cheat; some will view him as a joke, forever trying to slap the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s glove; and some will view him as one of the greatest players of all time. I’ll agree with Andrew Marchand: Love him or hate him, A-Rod will be missed. I’m guessing most of you will be happy to see him go away (although this ESPN poll has readers voting in favor of A-Rod as deserving to be in the Hall of Fame). I think that’s unfair. He’s a flawed individual like the rest of us, and his legacy is obviously complicated, brought on by his own mistakes. As he said at his media conference, he hopes to be remembered as someone who loved the game. Seems fair to me.

3. Kyle Hendricks, Cy Young contender: After another gem in a 3-1 victory over the Oakland A’s, we can longer ignore the guy who is second in the National League to the injured Clayton Kershaw. The Chicago Cubs’ Hendricks is 11-7 with a 2.17 ERA, putting him in the running along with Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, Madison Bumgarner, Jake Arrieta, Johnny Cueto, Noah Syndergaard. … OK, it’s a long list. Some of Hendricks’ ranks among NL starters:

ERA: 2nd

Batting average allowed: 8th

OBP allowed: 7th

wOBA allowed: 3rd

K rate: 21st

Innings: 16th

WAR (entering Sunday): 17th

The innings and WAR are big knocks against his case. He has also allowed 10 unearned runs. Anyway, it’s been a big breakout season for the rare righty who relies on finesse more than power. One key has been throwing more cutters to give a different look from his sinker/changeup combo. It also has been a much more effective pitch: Batters hit .359 against it last year but are hitting just .167 against it this year. (As Eno Sarris wrote in October, it’s kind of a cut change that resembles a slider. Whatever it is, it has been an important pitch this year.)

4. Tanner Roark is pretty awesome as well: He outdueled Madison Bumgarner 1-0 in maybe the best pitching showdown of the season. The Washington Nationals’ Roark has seven starts of at least seven innings and no runs, most in the majors, and lowered his ERA to 2.88. As Dusty Baker said, “He’s not amazing us anymore, we’ve kind of come to expect it.” Remember when Matt Williams made Roark a reliever? The San Francisco Giants, meanwhile, are now 2-8 in Bumgarner’s past 10 starts. Bumgarner’s ERA that span: 2.58 ERA.

5. Manny Machado hits three home runs in the first three innings: This gets the nod over Mike Trout robbing Leonys Martin of a grand slam on Trout’s 25th birthday, James Paxton striking out Trout four times, the Philadelphia Phillies turning a triple play, the Texas Rangers beating the Houston Astros again (Seattle actually passed Houston into second place in the AL West), and the Atlanta Braves taking the series from the St. Louis Cardinals

Yep. A few things happened.



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