It’s not complicated: the A’s would have been a whole lot better off this week having to face Justin Verlander twice in seven games than twice in five games.
And just as it’s always been, it’s absurd that MLB starts off the postseason with a best-of-five round before moving on to two best-of-sevens.
Given time to set their rotation, the Tigers are obviously a more dangerous team in a five-game series than a seven-game series. It’s not that the rest of their rotation is bad, but Verlander in 40 percent of the games works a whole lot better than throwing him in 29 percent of the games.
The A’s couldn’t beat Verlander, and they couldn’t sweep the other three games. There’s a good chance they would have lost a seven-game series, too, but at least that would have been the fair fight. In six trips to the playoffs under Billy Beane, the A’s have five ALDS losses, all of them 3 games to 2. They had to face Roger Clemens twice in two of them and Pedro Martinez twice in another.
If there’s one thing that’s already been made obvious this postseason, it’s that no team is head-and-shoulder above the rest. It’s never made any sense to let five games decide one round and seven the others, particularly since so many of these LDS matchups seem just as evenly matched as any series that will be encountered later on. Perhaps a second straight ALDS loss for the Yankees would increase momentum for the extra games.
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: