Rafael Palmeiro is quietly establishing himself as one of the top offensive players in baseball history.
In Baltimore’s doubleheader sweep over the Mariners on Tuesday, Palmeiro tied Ruth for 36th place on the hits list in the first game, and passed him in the nightcap with his 2,874th career hit, a fourth-inning single to right off Jamie Moyer.
“You stay around for 20 years and stay healthy and are productive a little bit, you’ll be able to do some things,” Palmeiro said after Baltimore’s 9-7 win in the opener.
Matching the Bambino proved to be a humbling—and surprising—experience.
“It won’t sink in until I can really sit back and understand what I’ve done,” Palmeiro said after the second game. “I mean it’s Babe Ruth. In a lot of people’s eyes, he was the greatest hitter of all time. I’m nowhere close to that, but at least for one day, I can say I have one more hit than Babe.”
Palmeiro is 11th on the career home run list with 542 and 17th all-time in RBIs with 1,747. If he manages to reach the 3,000-hit mark, he’ll become just the fourth player in baseball history to have 500 homers and 3,000 hits, joining Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray.
Edgar Martinez homered and Ichiro Suzuki went 5-for-5 for the Mariners. Suzuki’s five hits matched a career high, set just five days earlier in Anaheim. He did not start the nightcap because of flu-like symptoms, but entered as a pinch runner in the seventh and finished the game.
In the Orioles’ 5-4 win in the nightcap, a double-error by Baltimore shortstop Miguel Tejada let in the tying run in the eighth inning. But Tejada hit a leadoff double in the bottom half against George Sherrill, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Jerry Hairston.
Seattle, which stranded 11 runners in the first game and 14 in the second, has lost five straight and eight of nine. Despite totaling 31 hits, including 16 in the opener, the Mariners were swept in a doubleheader for the first time since Aug. 24, 1988, also at Baltimore.
“We are all to blame. I’m as frustrated as everybody else is,” Mariners second baseman Bret Boone said.