Nick Blackburn isn’t a particularly effective starting pitcher but the one thing he always does is throw strikes, so when the right-hander walked four of the first eight batters he faced yesterday something was obviously wrong.
He left the game in the second inning and is headed for the disabled list with a strained forearm, which Blackburn described as a “sharp” pain when speaking to reporters afterward.
Anthony Swarzak will replace Blackburn in the Twins’ rotation and it’s tough to imagine him not being an upgrade, as even before yesterday’s abbreviated outing Blackburn had a 7.20 ERA in his last 10 starts.
He also had a 5.00 ERA and .303 opponents’ batting average in 308 innings since the beginning of last season, so injury or not the struggles are nothing new for Blackburn. Minnesota owes Blackburn $4.75 million next season and $5.5 million in 2013, which is why you don’t give unnecessary contract extensions to mediocre pitchers with minuscule strikeout rates.
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: