Albert Pujols hits milestone homer; Angels lose again

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Don’t blame Albert Pujols; baseball’s best player over the last decade went 2-for-4 and hit his 30th homer Wednesday, yet the Angels lost their third straight to the A’s by a 4-1 score.

Pujols’ homer was his 30th of the season. He’s reached that mark all 12 seasons of his career, tying him with Jimmie Foxx for the third longest streak of all time. Only Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez, who both recorded 13 straight 30-homer seasons, had longer streaks.

Pujols also tied Stan Musial and Willie Stargell for 28th place on the all-time home run list at 475. Pujols was nicknamed “El Hombre” in St. Louis as a reference to “The Man” that preceded him as the Cardinals’ brightest star.

Still, for all the great company that Pujols is keeping, he’d surely rather be in Oakland’s place in the standings right now. A.J. Griffin shut out the Angels for eight innings tonight before Pujols homered to open the bottom of the ninth in a 4-0 game. The A’s held on from there to open up a 5 1/2-game lead over the Angels in the AL West, and they’ll go for a four-game sweep in Anaheim on Thursday.

At 82-60 with 20 games remaining, the A’s are three games behind the Rangers’ for the AL’s best record and the West lead. They are, however, in a commanding position in the wild card. They’re two games ahead of both the Orioles and Yankees, five games ahead of the Rays and seven games ahead of the Tigers. Two of those teams (or the aforementioned Angels) would have to pass them to deny the A’s a wild card spot.

As for the Angels, things look very dim now. Even if they salvage Wednesday’s game, they’d still be 4 1/2 back of the A’s, and with the other teams in the mix, they’d have a difficult path even if the A’s collapsed.

Aaron Judge set a new postseason strikeout record

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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: