So much for the committee: Gardenhire picks Jon Rauch as closer

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Earlier this week Ron Gardenhire announced that the Twins would use a closer-by-committee approach to replace Joe Nathan initially, but the manager has apparently already changed his mind.
Gardenhire said this afternoon that Jon Rauch will begin the season at closer, which is actually what I was expecting all along until the closer-by-committee curveball. Rauch is certainly not an ideal closer, but neither is anyone else on the Twins’ roster and in the short term at least he’s the most sensible option.
Rauch has some previous experience in the role, has generally been a solid, durable seventh- and eighth-inning option, and allows Matt Guerrier to remain in his familiar setup role. At some point this season perhaps Jose Mijares or Pat Neshek will emerge as ninth-inning options, but for now giving Rauch a shot to be a league-average closer and convert 80-85 percent of his save opportunities makes sense.

Aaron Judge set a new postseason strikeout record

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For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:

The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).

It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: