Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span, and Matt Tolbert are injured, Jason Kubel is away from the team for a family emergency, and call-up Luke Hughes missed his flight to Target Field, so manager Ron Gardenhire had to improvise tonight’s Twins lineup and the result is Joe Mauer making his professional debut in right field.
Prior to this season Mauer had never played anywhere but catcher and designated hitter, but he’s been seeing significant action at first base since returning from the disabled list and will now give the outfield a try. And unless Hughes shows up during the game, Minnesota will face the Yankees with zero healthy players on the bench.
While far from a speedster, Mauer has the athleticism to potentially be an asset defensively in right field and his arm will certainly come in handy if any runners try to take an extra base. For now the Twins have said that Mauer remains in their plans primarily as a catcher, but third base and right field are potentially intriguing destinations if they decide to move the former MVP out from behind the plate more often in 2012.
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: