Here’s the Rangers’ lineup for Game 1 of the World Series tonight against Tim Lincecum:
1. Elvis Andrus, SS
2. Michael Young, 3B
3. Josh Hamilton, CF
4. Vladimir Guerrero, RF
5. Nelson Cruz, LF
6. Ian Kinsler, 2B
7. Bengie Molina, C
8. Mitch Moreland, 1B
9. Cliff Lee, P
Playing under NL rules means no designated hitter to hide Guerrero’s bad knees, so he’s playing the outfield for the first time this postseason and just the second time since September 1. Of course, he started 16 games in the outfield overall this year and has logged a total of nearly 14,000 career innings in right field, so Guerrero having to play defense isn’t such a big deal beyond his poor range.
David Murphy is the odd man out despite a) being a left-handed hitter, b) having a higher OPS against right-handed pitching than Guerrero this year, and c) being a vastly superior defender. Of course, Ron Washington won’t even move Guerrero out of the cleanup spot, so whether or not you think it would have been the correct decision there was zero chance of the Rangers’ manager actually benching him.
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: