Everyone — present company included — laughed when the Yankees acquired Vernon Wells. Vernon Wells and the Yankees are laughing now. He’s hitting .287/.341/.504 with seven homers. When the Yankees needed someone — anyone — to step up while the big guys are all out on the disabled list, Vernon Wells stepped up and then some.
Last night may have been his best game. He was 3 for 4 with a homer and two driven in. And to top it all off, after a career in which he’s never played anywhere besides the outfield, he played the ninth inning at third base, where he fielded a grounder and looked pretty darn slick making the putout. A video of all of his game highlights is here, with the defensive play at the end.
What an odd career Wells has had. Greatness, then a couple of years where he was among the least valuable players in the game, followed by more greatness. And he’s on, like, the third time through that cycle.
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: