The Pirates still have a long way to go in order to make a game out of this, but they are on the board against the Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLDS.
Pedro Alvarez, who tied for the NL lead with 36 homers in the regular season, led off the top of the fifth inning with a long solo home run against Adam Wainwright. Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News notes that the ball traveled an estimated 437 feet into the right field bleachers.
Wainwright sat down the next three batters he faced, including strikeouts of Clint Barmes and Jeanmar Gomez, so it’s 7-1 as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning. The Pirates have 12 more outs to chip away, but it’s not looking good right now.
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: