Well, tied for first place, but they got the mojo.
The Dbacks have won four in a row and the Giants have dropped five straight. The last two in each of those streaks came against the other, and now the defending World Series champs are deadlocked with Arizona. I don’t necessarily believe in “statement games” or “statement series” — they seem like talk radio creations — but it’s worth noting that the Diamondbacks’ last trip to San Francisco resulted in a Giants sweep and the Dbacks dipping seven games under .500. Since that sweep they are 46-27.
We all got warm fuzzies when the Pirates flirted with contending for a week or so. The Diamondbacks weren’t expected to be any good this year either, yet here they are. Contending. Competing against a Giants team that has lost its gravity lately.
The calendar is just turning to August and there is still a lot of baseball to be played, but this Giants-Dbacks series feels like the 2011 pennant race making its formal introduction.
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: