The Athletics’ Kurt Suzuki made the defense play of the year, catchers’ division, in last night’s loss to the Mariners. Check it out here.
Catching the ball would have been highlight enough. The fact that he caught it, stayed on his feet, saw Chone Figgins running and then threw a perfect strike down to Kouzmanoff at third made it nothing short of spectacular.
I caught when I played Babe Ruth baseball when I was 15. I wouldn’t have been able to run back to the backstop, pick up the ball I missed by 5 feet, and then run back to the plate before the runner at second was back in the dugout after having scored, gotten a drink and found his glove for the next half inning.
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: