As tempting as it is to blame Fredi Gonzalez for managing a winner-take-all game as if it were just another regular-season game or umpire Sam Holbrook for his brutal infield-fly call, the fact that the Braves lost to the Cardinals 6-3 on Friday can be chalked up to poor defense from a team that made the fewest errors in the National League this year.
– Up 2-0, third baseman Chipper Jones threw a potential double-play ball over the head of Dan Uggla and into right field in the fourth inning, opening the door for the Cardinals to score three runs.
– Second baseman Dan Uggla bobbled and then threw away David Freese’s grounder with the Braves down 4-2. Freese took second on the play.
– After a sac bunt advanced the pinch-runner, Pete Kozma hit a grounder to shortstop. Andrelton Simmons bobbled the ball and then foolishly threw home anyway. Not only did the run score, but Kozma was able to go to second when the throw went wide.
– It wasn’t an error, but the Cards scored again in the seventh to go up 6-2 when a Matt Carpenter swinging bunt turned into an infield single and an RBI, as Kozma scored from second after pitcher Jonny Venters missed the tag and had his momentum carry him past the first base line.
Atlanta went on to lose from there despite outhitting the Cardinals 12-6 and outwalking them 3-0. This one isn’t on Gonzalez or Holbrook; it’s all on the Braves.
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: