Brantley's 200th hit caps history-making season
CLEVELAND -- Michael Brantley elevated his offensive game to new heights this season, emerging as the Indians' top overall player. With a one-out single in the fourth inning on Saturday, the outfielder also entered uncharted statistical waters in terms of team history.
Brantley's hit off Tampa Bay right-hander Alex Colome marked the 200th hit of the season for the All-Star left fielder. With that hit, Brantley became the first batter in Cleveland history to have at least 20 stolen bases, 20 home runs, 40 doubles and 200 hits in a single campaign.
When Brantley reached first base after the milestone hit, he put both hands on his mouth and blew a kiss to the sky. It was an emotional moment for the left fielder.
"It was just a little gesture to my grandmother," Brantley said. "I know she's up there watching me. I lost her a year-and-a-half back to some cancer and let her know she's still a part of me, and that I'm the man I am today because of her."
For manager Terry Francona, the statistics are not required in order for him to boast about Brantley's special season.
"I actually don't need the stat line," Francona said. "I know that backs up everything, but he has had a remarkable year in every way, shape and form. To play the amount of games he played. He hit third all year. He made an All-Star team. He was one of the best teammates you'll ever see. He cares so much. He knows his responsibilities to our team.
"You're seeing a kid grow up, and he's always been a mature kid. You're seeing a kid grow up as a baseball player right in front of our eyes and go from being a good player to one of the better players in the game. That's really exciting."
Brantley is the first Indians hitter to reach at least 200 hits in one season since 1996, when Tribe great Kenny Lofton had 210 hits. Overall, Brantley became the 18th batter in Cleveland history to have at least 200 hits -- a mark that has been reached 28 times overall.
Brantley is the seventh hitter in team history to collect at least 20 stolen bases and 200 hits in a season. The others on that list include Lofton (1996), Joe Carter (1986), Charlie Jamieson (1924), Tris Speaker (1916), Shoeless Joe Jackson (1911-12) and Nap Lajoie (1904, 1906 and 1910). Among that group, only Carter also had at least 20 home runs.
Brantley, Lofton (1996), Carlos Baerga (1992-93), Carter (1986) and Al Rosen (1953) are the only Indians batters to enjoy a 200-hit season.
"It's been one of the best all-around seasons I've ever seen as a teammate," second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "Sure, I've seen other guys. You'll have the [Mike] Trouts, the Victor Martinez's, those guys will have their incredible years. But, as a teammate, playing alongside someone, it's been one of the better seasons I've ever seen."
In terms of American League history, Brantley joins Jacoby Ellsbury (2011), Alfonso Soriano (2002) and Nomar Garciaparra (1997) as the only players to have a season with at least 20 steals, 20 homers, 40 doubles and 200 hits. Brantley is on the cusp of joining Ellsbury as the only hitters in that select group to also have at least 90 RBIs with at least a .320 batting average.
With Saturday's showing, Brantley is now hitting .327 with 20 home runs, 23 steals, 45 doubles, 94 runs and 97 RBIs through 156 games for Cleveland. The All-Star also has nearly as many walks (52) as strikeouts (56).
In Major League history, only Ellsbury (2011), Larry Walker (1997), Ellis Burks (1996), Chuck Klein (1932) and Babe Herman (1929) have ended a single season with at least a .320 average, along with at least 20 homers, 20 steals, 40 doubles, 90 RBIs and 200 hits. Brantley is poised to become the sixth player in history to achieve that rare feat.
Brantley has not allowed such historic elements to sink in, yet.
"It's going to mean a lot on Monday," Brantley said, "when I sit back and reflect on kind of what went on. I'll digest it all."