Spring training games aren’t actually real. Especially February spring training games. But they are more real than games against college teams like we say yesterday which are, in turn, more real than mere workouts which we’ve seen for the past week which are, in turn, way more real than sitting around all winter with our thumbs up our posteriors waiting for baseball.
Point is, no matter how short an outing the starting pitchers of today’s games are, no matter how many hours the actual major leaguers have been on the golf course by the time today’s games end and no matter how slow and tentative the play is compared to the actual regular season, today will feature games in which professional baseball players play professional baseball against other professional baseball players. And that’s not nothing. In fact, it’s pretty exciting.
Indeed, I just saw the lineup for the Braves-Tigers game at 1pm today. B.J. Upton is batting second. I’m sure it’s just because they want to give him more at bats earlier in the game, but I actually found myself getting outraged about B.J. Upton batting second and I complained about it on Twitter. For the first game of spring training.
Maybe that’s the definition of petty. But I don’t care. They’re playing baseball today.
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: