Betts joins elite company with 200th hit

Betts joins elite company with 200th hit

BALTIMORE -- One night, Mookie Betts is batting cleanup and hitting yet another home run at Camden Yards. The next night, he is back in the leadoff spot that used to be customary while reaching a most impressive milestone for any player -- let alone one who is 23 years old.

Welcome to the multifaceted season of dominance by Betts, who joined the 200-hit club with a three-hit performance that led the surging Red Sox to a 5-2 victory over the Orioles on Tuesday.

"It means I put in a lot of work," said Betts, who was first in the Majors this season to reach 200 hits. "It's been a long season and I'll give myself a little credit for just working and grinding through the whole thing. I do know there is more to go."

While Betts became Boston's first player with 200 hits since Adrian Gonzalez and Jacoby Ellsbury in 2011, the way Betts did it is what is most remarkable.

It's also a telling sign of how many different ways Betts can torment the opposition.

Betts is the seventh player in history with at least 200 hits, 30 homers, 40 doubles and 20 stolen bases in the same season.

The only other player to reach all those milestones in an age 23-season or younger was Nomar Gaciaparra, who did it for the Red Sox in his rookie season of 1997. The inclusion of Ellsbury on that list (2011) means that three of the seven players in history who reached all those numbers in the same year did so for the Red Sox.

The others in the rare club are Alfonso Soriano (2002 Yankees), Larry Walker (1997 Rockies), Ellis Burks (1996 Rockies) and Chuck Klein (1932 Phillies).

"You don't see too many guys around the league achieve that or accomplish that inside of a year," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "When you look at the power, the average, the total number of hits, he's a five-tool player that is playing to those skills. We're glad he's ours, certainly, but how often can you take a four-hole hitter and put him in the leadoff spot and he responds with three singles and makes some things happen? He's a hell of a player."

Betts came into the game with 198 hits and had singles in the first and third innings. He added hit No. 201, a single to left, in the seventh. The right fielder moved back to leadoff just for one night, as Dustin Pedroia rested a sore left knee.

Johnny Pesky (1942) is the only other player in Red Sox history to reach his 200th hit before his 24th birthday.

"It's unbelievable," said David Ortiz. "He works so hard every day. Like I say, man, these kids, they're not playing around. They are up to the challenge."

Though Betts isn't big on tracking his stats, former Red Sox outfielder Michael Coleman sent him a recent text to let him know 200 was within reach.

"Yeah, I got a text yesterday that I was pretty close, but he didn't say how many," Betts said. "He just said, 'You're pretty close, keep going.' They threw the ball in and I had an idea."

In the race for the American League's Most Valuable Award, Betts will clearly be a top contender, along with his teammate Ortiz.

"Special player," Jackie Bradley Jr. said of Betts. "Fun to play beside. Great teammate."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.