July 5, 2014
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
– Mark Teixeira probably wishes every day was the Fourth of July.
Teixeira, one of the greatest all-around players ever to swing a bat on The Flats (1999-2001) and possible future Baseball Hall of Famer, who has starred in the majors for a dozen years for four teams (Texas, Atlanta, Los Angeles Angels, New York Yankees), has proved to be especially locked in on July 4th.
On Friday, Teixeira once again went to work, going 1-for-4 for the Yankees with an RBI double and a run scored in their three-run first inning against the Minnesota Twins in a 6-5 victory.
It’s a nice day, but is hardly a banner day.
Not for a two-time All-Star, former National Player of the Year and first-team All-American. Not for someone who still ranks as one of Georgia Tech’s all-time leading average hitters (his career .409 ranks third all-time and .427 B.A. in 2000 ranks sixth), sluggers (his .712 career slugging percentage ranks second and .772 percentage in 2000 ranks sixth all-time, while his 36 homers rank 16th), and run-producers (his 80 RBIs in 2000 rank sixth for a season, while his 104 runs in 2000 are a school record).
But what made Friday special was something Teixeira did (get a hit) and something he DIDN’T do (strike out). That he once again performed as he did, and as he consistently has, on America’s birthday, makes it sublime.
Friday’s first-inning double off Minnesota starter Kyle Gibson gave “Tex” a hit in nine straight July 4th games and in all but one of the 10 in which he’s played (he didn’t play in 2007 and 2013 due to injuries). The only Independence Day game in which did not reach via hit came in 2003, his rookie season, when he went 0-for-3.
Teixeira left Target Field hitting .459 on July 4th (17-for-37). If there was a down side to his extending his streak, it’s that the 1-for-4 actually lowered his career Independence Day average, as he’d come into the day hitting .485 (16-for-33) on the Fourth.
A different and more interesting July 4th streak kept alive on Friday came as a result Teixeira’s not strike out.
The slugging first baseman, one of only five players in the Majors to have hit 15 homers in at least 11 seasons since 2003 (Albert Pujols, David Ortiz, Raul Ibanez, and Alfonso Soriano are the others) is riding a streak of 33 consecutive at-bats on Independence Day without striking out and has not struck out on July 4th in a decade!
The last time he struck out on America’s birthday was back in 2004, as a member of the Texas Rangers. Houston Astros lefty Andy Pettitte got him swinging in the second inning. It was his second career strikeout on Independence Day — his first came in 2003, against Seattle’s Freddy Garcia, who got him swinging in the fourth.
It shouldn’t surprise that Teixeira hasn’t walked back to the dugout very often on July 4th. It’s consistent with his Major League career, during which he’s K’ed around once every five at-bats, and is in character with what Tech fans remember. “Tex” still ranks 15th all-time in Georgia Tech history when it comes to the toughest batters to strike out, going down on strikes once every 9.10 at-bats during his three years on The Flats
It should be noted that “Big Tex” got even with Pettitte the inning after the 7/4/04 strike out, lashing an RBI double off him. For good measure, he got even with the rest of the Astros later in the game, blasting a solo homer in the eighth inning, part of back-to-back shots, then belting a grand slam in the ninth in the Rangers’ 18-3 rout. Teixeira finished with three hits, three runs scored and six RBIs (one off his career high).
The outburst was his first of five multi-hit July 4ths and first of three three-hit days. The six RBIs and three runs scored also were Independence Day highs. He has 11 RBIs for his career and 12 runs scored.
Of course, most important to Teixeira than his individual numbers are the team results.
Even there, he’s had good reason to celebrate.
Teixeira’s teams have an 8-2 record with him in the lineup on July 4th and are 10-2 overall — 4-1 with Texas, 1-0 with Atlanta, 1-0 with the L.A. Angels and 5-1 with the Yankees.
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