Albert Pujols’ season totals are still well below his usual standards because of his bad start, but he’s somewhat quietly been his usual dominant self and then some for the past two months.
Last night Pujols went 4-for-4 against the Brewers, smacking his 28th homer to move into a tie for the NL lead with teammate Lance Berkman. And thanks in large part to batting in front of Berkman’s (and Matt Holliday’s) power Pujols also ranks second among NL hitters with 78 runs scored while being among the top 10 in slugging percentage, total bases, extra-base hits, and RBIs.
That’s one helluva down year.
In his last 50 games Pujols is hitting .312 with 20 homers, 16 doubles, and a 1.059 OPS. To put that in some context, coming into this season he was a career .331 hitter with a 1.050 OPS. In other words, he’s been his usual self since around May 30, with a fractured wrist in mid-June briefly interrupting things, but the slow start has kept that from being obvious to everyone.
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: