Jon Lester‘s mild case of the yips is well known. It was front and center in the playoffs last year when runners greedily took extra-long leads off first base, knowing he lacked confidence in his ability to throw over to first base. A pickoff for Lester is so notable that it earned a standalone post from us earlier this year when he did it during the regular season.
Lester entered Game 4 of the NLDS on Wednesday in the fifth inning in relief of starter Jake Arrieta. He had pitched three shutout innings when he took the hill in the eighth. The lefty walked Ryan Zimmerman with one out. Zimmerman, unsurprisingly, started taking a big lead off of first base. After falling behind 1-0 to Daniel Murphy, Lester decided to summon up his courage and throw over to first base. He spiked a one-hopper to first baseman Anthony Rizzo and Zimmerman got back to the bag. Lester decided to throw over again. It was a little off the mark, as Rizzo had to reach for it, but he swiped Zimmerman’s left foot. He was ruled safe, but Cubs skipper Joe Maddon challenged the ruling and it was overturned, giving Lester a pickoff in the playoffs.
The Cubs, though, lost Wednesday’s contest 5-0 and will have to battle the Nationals again in a pivotal Game 5 of Thursday.
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: