Yankees claim AL East, home field; A’s to take on Tigers

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By losing 4-1 to the Rays, the Orioles settled things in the American League playoff picture this evening. The Yankees will face the wild card winner, either the Orioles or Rangers, in one ALDS and the A’s will get the Tigers in the other.

The Orioles will travel to Texas to play a one-game playoff Friday. Joe Saunders and Yu Darvish are the expected starters.

The Yankees cruised past the Red Sox 14-2 in Wednesday’s finale, giving them the AL’s best record at 95-67. They’ll have home-field advantage until the World Series. The NL already secured home field in the World Series by winning the All-Star Game.

The AL West champion Athletics are the two-seed with 94 wins. The Orioles and Rangers both finished with 93 wins, but Texas had the tiebreaker by virtue of winning the head-to-head series 5-2.

The Yankees will begin their postseason in either Baltimore or Texas on Sunday, with CC Sabathia expected to start. The ALDS series this year will have the lower seed hosting the first two games, with the high seed going home for Games 3-5.

The A’s will play in Detroit on Saturday. Jarrod Parker or Brett Anderson could start that one against Justin Verlander.

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: