Choo Shin-soo enjoys third 20-20 season in home runs, steals

SEOUL, Sept. 24 (Yonhap) -- Choo Shin-soo of the Cincinnati Reds picked up his 19th and 20th steals of the season at home against the New York Mets on Monday for his third career 20-20 season.

With the 20th swipe, Choo joined the 20-20 club in home runs and steals for the first time in three Major League Baseball (MLB) seasons. He entered the game with 21 homers for the season but didn't add to that total against the Mets.

Choo went 3-for-6 at the plate in the game and drove in two runs, including the game-winning run with a single in the bottom of the 10th. The Reds prevailed 3-2 to clinch a playoff spot in the National League (NL).

Choo had his first 20-20 season in 2009 for the Cleveland Indians, with 20 homers and 21 steals. He repeated the feat the next season, with 22 dingers and 22 steals, both career highs.

In 2013, eight other players have so far hit at least 20 homers and stolen more than 20 bases.

Choo joined the Reds in a three-way trade last December and has been the spark at the leadoff spot that the Reds had desperately sought. In the NL, Choo is second with a .423 on-base percentage, second in runs scored with 105 and also second in walks with 109.

Choo also became the 27th big leaguer to record 20 homers, 20 steals, 100 runs scored and 100 walks in one season. Only one player, Rickey Henderson, reached those figures from the leadoff spot, when he split his 1993 season with the Oakland Athletics and the Toronto Blue Jays.

Choo has played 139 of his 149 games as the leadoff man, posting 21 home runs, 18 steals, 103 runs scored and 106 walks. He has one steal with two runs scored and three walks while batting second, with no home runs. In his one pinch-hitting appearance in the ninth spot, Choo had a steal.

The Reds have five games remaining this season.

A free-agent-to-be this winter, Choo is enjoying his most productive season and appears to be in line for a lucrative contract. He is earning US$7.37 million this season.

The 31-year-old made his MLB debut with the Seattle Mariners in 2005 and was traded to the Indians in 2006. The former high school pitching prospect didn't become a full-time big leaguer until 2008.

By beating the Mets, the Reds secured at least one of the two wild cards in the NL. They're currently tied for second in the NL Central with the Pittsburgh Pirates, two games back of the St. Louis Cardinals. All three clubs have five games left to play.

Another South Korean in the NL, pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin of the Los Angeles Dodgers, is also playoff bound, as the Dodgers clinched the NL West divisional title last week.

Should the Dodgers and the Reds meet in the postseason, it could set up the first pitcher-batter duel between South Koreans in the big league playoffs. Ryu and Choo faced off against each other once in the regular season, and Choo went 0-for-2 with a walk against the left-handed starter in July, as the Dodgers prevailed 4-1.

In the divisional series in each league, the division winner with the best regular season record will take on the winner of the one-game showdown between the two wild card teams, while the two other division winners will square off. The winners from those two series will advance to the League Championship Series, which will determine who will play in the World Series.

After Monday's games, the Atlanta Braves, which have clinched the NL East title, had the best record in the league, ahead of the Cardinals and the Dodgers.

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