Big changes in Anaheim. Ernesto Frieri, who has spent most of the past three seasons as the Angels’ closer has been relieved of his duties. Mike Scioscia said that Joe Smith will now take over as the team’s closer.
Frieri has been a train wreck in 2014. He has allowed nine runs on fourteen hits in eight and two-thirds innings over ten appearances so far. In his last appearance, on Wednesday, he gave up four runs to blow a three-run lead and the game against the Nationals. Manager Mike Scioscia said that it’s a mechanical problem with Frieri and that, until he can figure out his release point, Frieri will pitch in lower-leverage situations, though likely not in the eighth inning.
Smith has exactly three saves in 450 career big league appearances.
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: