Entering the game with 998 career hits, the 30-year-old outfielder singled off Royals pitcher James Shields to open the contest but then went hitless in his his next two at-bats. Facing Shields for a fourth time in the seventh inning, Ellsbury laced an RBI single to right field, reaching 1,000 career hits while extending the Yankees' lead to 4-1.
The speedy outfielder then made No. 1,001 count, hitting a two-run homer off Royals reliever Francisley Bueno in the top of the ninth inning. With 11 homers this season, Ellsbury already has the second-best single-season total of his career, trailing only the 32 that he shockingly hit for the Boston Red Sox in 2011.
Set to turn 31 on Sept. 11, Ellsbury is only now reaching 1,000 career hits in his eighth season because of the number of games he's lost to injury. Following his late-season 2007 debut, Ellsbury averaged just 113.7 games per season for the Red Sox from 2008-2013. He logged just 18 games in 2010 and 74 in 2012 sandwiched around his outlier near-MVP season in 2011.
Though it may take a while for the injury-prone label to wear off, Ellsbury has played in 126 of the Yankees' first 129 games this season after playing 134 games for the rival Red Sox last year.
The early career injuries killed Ellsbury's chances of ever reaching 3,000 hits, but 2,000 should be doable.
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