As the final week of the regular season begins, the playoff chase is reaching its dramatic conclusion. But there’s more than the standings to keep an eye on down the stretch.
The 2019 season featured plenty of records and milestones before the season's final days. Earlier in the year, CC Sabathia got his 3,000th strikeout and 250th win, and Albert Pujols reached the 2,000-RBI mark. Just recently, Gerrit Cole notched his 300th K of the season, and Bruce Bochy notched his 2,000th managerial victory.
Yet there are still more milestones within reach before October begins. Here’s a look at some important ones to keep an eye on in the regular season’s final week.
Justin Verlander (HOU): 300 K's this season and 3,000 career K's
Verlander reached two milestones in his final start of the regular season. First, he became the 18th member of the 3,000-strikeout club. Then, he became the 19th pitcher in the modern era to record a 300-strikeout season. Verlander followed Sabathia as the second pitcher to reach 3,000 career strikeouts this year, and he followed his teammate Cole as the second to get to 300.
Verlander and Cole give Houston only the second 300-K pair of teammates in MLB history. Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling for the 2002 D-backs are the other. At age 36, Verlander is also the third-oldest pitcher to rack up 300 strikeouts in a season, behind only Roger Clemens and Johnson.
Pete Alonso (NYM): Rookie HR record and NL/MLB HR title
Alonso finally reached his crowning milestone -- he crushed his 53rd home run of the season in the Mets' second-to-last game at Citi Field, setting a new MLB rookie home run record. No. 53 for Alonso on Saturday broke his tie with Aaron Judge, whose 52 home runs in 2017 were the previous rookie mark. Alonso already had set the National League rookie home run record, plus the Mets' single-season mark. Alonso also leads the NL and Major League home run races by four over the Reds' Eugenio Suárez. Only five rookies have led their league in homers, only two have tied for the Major League lead and none has ever led MLB outright.
Eugenio Suárez (CIN): 50 HR and Reds franchise record
As mentioned, Suárez is right on Alonso's tail for the Major League home run lead, thanks to a monster second half in which he has gone deep 28 times in 66 games. He also broke Andres Galarraga's single-season record for Venezuelan-born players. Should Suárez pass Alonso, he would be the first Reds player to lead the NL in homers since George Foster in 1978, and the first to lead the Majors since Foster in '77. That same season, Foster set the franchise record with 52 big flies. If Suárez maintains his second-half pace, he could not only crack 50, but also tie or pass Foster.
It should be noted that the Dodgers' Cody Bellinger (46 homers) also has a shot at breaking his franchise's record (49 by Shawn Green) and reaching 50. But a recent power shortage has made that less likely.
Nicholas Castellanos (CHC): 60 2B
He smacked his 58th double of the season on Saturday against the Cardinals, making him the first player to reach that total since Todd Helton (59) in 2000. Now, with just two more two-baggers, Castellanos could become the first hitter to reach the 60 mark in more than 80 years. Hall of Famers Charlie Gehringer (60) and Joe Medwick (64), were the last to do so, in 1936. Castellanos, with 21 doubles in 49 games since being traded from the Tigers to the Cubs, could snap that long drought.
Ronald Acuña Jr. (ATL): 40-40 season
Acuña already clinched a 40-30 season, which is impressive enough. And at age 21, he is the youngest player to accomplish that feat. Now Acuña needs three more stolen bases for just the fifth 40-40 season in Major League history, and first since Alfonso Soriano in 2006. Some good news in that chase for Acuña: He has picked up the pace of his thefts, with an MLB-most 24 since the All-Star break, and now leads the NL in that category for the season.
Kenley Jansen (LAD): 300 SV
Jansen needs two more saves to become the 30th pitcher to reach the 300 mark, and the fourth to do so by the end of his age-31 season, joining Craig Kimbrel, Huston Street and Francisco Rodriguez. A typical Jansen season would have yielded No. 300 already, but the Dodgers closer's struggles have led to a career-high eight blown saves in 38 chances. Still, by closing out two more games, Jansen has a chance to reach a milestone and gain some momentum going into the pressure-packed postseason.
Yordan Alvarez (HOU): Rookie-record 185 wRC+
Since arriving in the Majors in June, Alvarez has been a huge part of a sensational Astros offense, hitting .326/.422/.681 with 27 homers and 77 RBIs in 82 games. The American League Rookie of the Year Award front-runner is set to finish with the highest slugging percentage by any rookie with at least 300 plate appearances in Major League history, as he sits well ahead of Rudy York (.651 in 1937). Meanwhile, the ballpark- and league-adjusted wRC+ metric has Alvarez at 186, positioning him ahead of all-time rookie leader Shoeless Joe Jackson, who posted a 184 more than a century ago (1911).
Albert Pujols (LAA): 660 HR
Pujols already reached the 2,000-RBI mark earlier this year, but with a player like him, there are always more milestones to reach. One that is on the horizon is 660 home runs, which would tie Willie Mays for the fifth most all time. With 23 home runs this year -- besting his total from 2018 -- Pujols is now at 656 for his storied career. Four more homers in the Angels' final six games seems like a long shot, but so was a 13th-round Draft pick becoming a no-doubt Hall of Famer.