Korean leadoff man Shin-soo Choo homered twice against the Atlanta Braves Tuesday night to lift his on-base percentage to the top of the major leagues, as well as secure a 5-4 win for Cincinatti.
Choo’s walk-off homer was especially sweet because it was against Craig Kimbrel, the National League’s top closer.
Choo’s first homer of the game was a solo shot that came in the third inning with the Reds trailing 3-0. With the Braves leading 4-3, with two outs in the ninth and the count full, Reds pinch-hitter Devin Mesoraco connected to send the pitch over the center-field wall. Choo followed up by blasting Kimbrel’s 95.6 mph pitch for the 90th of his career.
It was Choo’s first multiple-homer game since August of 2011 against Seattle. With seven homers this season he’s tied for eighth place in the National League’s home-run race, five behind leader Justin Upton of the Braves.
The homers improved Choo’s on-base percentage to the MLB’s best .465. His 27 runs this season is the majors’ second best. His batting average also improved from .331 to .333.
“Choo has been so good for us,” Mesoraco told the MLB.com. “It’s crazy how good he is playing and how good of a player that guy is. It’s fun. He never gives away an at-bat. You always know that, with him up there, we’re going to have a chance to get something going.”
Choo has been making his mark not only by hitting the ball but by getting hit by it as well. By late April he had been hit 9 times during the first 19 games of the season, putting him on pace to set a new record for most plunkings in a season. If he gets hit 42 more times, he will tie the painful record of 51 set by Hughie Jennings in 1896.
Choo, 30, came over from S. Korea to join the Mariners in 2005. He was traded to the Indians in 2009, then to the Reds at the end 2012. His current salary is $7.35 mil. Choo’s consistency in getting on base has some talking about him as becoming MLB’s best leadoff batter, a status long held by Ichiro Suzuki while playing for the Mariners.