The Braves have never given Tommy Hanson a whole lot of help since he debuted two years, but he’s consistently gotten just enough this year. On Sunday, he improved to 8-4 by striking out a career-high 14 in the Braves’ 4-1 victory over the Astros.
Hanson pitched seven innings and allowed one run on three hits. The 14 strikeouts topped his previous best by three. He entered with five career 10-strikeout games, with his high total of 11 coming against the Gaints on July 20, 2009.
More than just run support, it was bullpen support that was a problem for Hanson in the past, most notably when he went 2-6 despite a 2.51 ERA in 15 starts after the All-Star break last year. Through 14 starts this year, the bullpen has blown one lead for him.
Hanson is currently third in the NL with a 2.48 ERA, fifth with a 1.03 WHIP and sixth with 89 strikeouts. Only Roy Halladay with nine has more victories. Halladay would certainly be the Cy Young choice if the balloting were held today, but Hanson would be right there with Cole Hamels and his Braves teammate Jair Jurrjens as a candidates to place second or third.
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: