Francisco Liriano shuts down Red Sox

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After dominating in both winter ball and spring training to get Twins fans optimistic again following a disastrous 2009 season Francisco Liriano kept rolling this afternoon versus the Red Sox, tossing seven shutout innings against a David Ortiz-less lineup.
Liriano struck out eight and induced nine ground-ball outs while allowing just four hits and two walks, needing just 96 pitches to record 21 outs. His fastball command remains spotty at times, but he has more velocity than last season and continues to get tons of swinging strikes with his slider and changeup.
Tommy John elbow surgery cost everyone a chance to see just how special Liriano could be after emerging as the most overpowering pitcher in baseball in 2006, but right now he looks a lot more like that guy than the one who went 5-13 with a 5.80 ERA last season. If he keeps pitching like he did this afternoon, the Twins are going to be very hard to keep pace with in the AL Central.

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: