Losing for the fourth time in five games, the Angels were officially eliminated from postseason contention on Monday night, as the Rangers beat them 4-3.
The Angels did try to come back from 3-0 down. The Rangers, getting ready for Friday’s ALDS Game 1, pulled starter C.J. Wilson after two innings and turned to Mark Hamburger. Hamburger kept the Halos scoreless until the sixth, when Mike Trout singled in a run and Bobby Abreu walked with the bases loaded.
That made it 3-2 Rangers. The Rangers added an insurance run when Michael Young singled in Elvis Andrus in the eighth, and it proved crucial, as the Angels could come back with only one run off Neftali Feliz in the ninth.
Dan Haren, who left his last start with a left wrist contusion suffered when he was hit by a liner, went eight innings for the Angels. He struck out eight, and one of the four runs he gave up was unearned, the result of a Jeff Mathis error.
With the victory, the Rangers stayed one game up on the Tigers for home-field advantage in the first round of the postseason. It obviously wasn’t too important to Texas — note Wilson’s early exit — but it’d seem terribly advantageous to miss the Yankees in the ALDS. The winner of the wild card, whether it’s the Red Sox or Rays, is likely to be poorly set up for the postseason opener, especially if the two teams have to take part in a one-game playoff Thursday.
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: