Shortly after last night’s Game 2 victory Rangers manager Ron Washington announced that struggling first baseman Mitch Moreland will be out of the lineup for Game 3 of the ALCS tonight.
Moreland, who’s just 2-for-17 during the playoffs and went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in Game 2, will be replaced at first base with Michael Young while Mike Napoli gets a break from catching duties at designated hitter and Yorvit Torrealba moves into the lineup behind the plate.
During the regular season Moreland hit .266 with a .783 OPS versus righties compared to .234 with a .577 OPS versus lefties, but because Detroit doesn’t have a left-handed pitcher in the rotation Washington’s usual routine of sitting Moreland against southpaws isn’t any option.
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: