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There have been a lot of players wearing golden sombreros this postseason

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Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts, an achievement colloquially known as a “golden sombrero.” Hopefully it makes Bryant feel better to know he’s not alone. Lonnie Chisenhall, Aaron Judge (twice), Jay Bruce, and Cody Bellinger have all worn golden sombreros this postseason.

With six four-strikeout games already this postseason, 2017 has tied 1997 for the most golden sombreros in a postseason. And we’re not even past the Division Series yet. In 1997, Dan Wilson, Brady Anderson, Marquis Grissom (twice), Rafael Palmeiro, and Devon White accomplished the ignominious feat. 2016 saw zero golden somberos in the postseason. In case you’re wondering, 2015 had two, 2014 had three, 2013 had four.

Why so many this postseason? I’d posit that the evolution in pitcher usage has something to do with it. Starters are now being used in relief roles previously taken by middle relievers. For example, rather than using someone like Addison Reed after Rick Porcello could only last three innings in ALDS Game 4 against the Astros, then-manager John Farrell opted to use starter Chris Sale, who led all starters with 308 strikeouts. He struck out six in 4 2/3 innings in Game 4.

Furthermore, in general, there’s a lot more emphasis by pitchers to strike batters out, as evidenced by the strikeout rate, which has been climbing every year since 2005. Hitters emphasize power hitting and hitting fly balls now more than ever. Take J.D. Martinez for example, who said back in March, “I’m not trying to hit a [freaking] line drive or a freaking ground ball. I’m trying to hit the ball in the air.” He smacked 45 home runs this season, including 29 in 62 games after joining the Diamondbacks.

Of course, an equally valid explanation is that it’s just random chance that four-strikeout games would cluster in a particular year. Nevertheless, it is an interesting data point and it will be fun to see how much higher the golden sombrero count will climb by the end of this postseason.

Red Sox survive back-and-forth affair with Astros, win 8-6 to take 3-1 lead in ALCS

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Game 4 of the ALCS on Wednesday night between the Red Sox and Astros was a thrilling back-and-forth affair with seven lead changes. Ultimately, the Red Sox emerged victorious with a hard-fought 7-5 victory.

The Red Sox wasted no time getting on the board, plating two runs in the top of the first inning against Charlie Morton thanks to a walk, hit-by-pitch, wild pitch, and a Rafael Devers single. In the bottom half, José Altuve hit what appeared to be a game-tying two-run home run to right field off of Rick Porcello. Mookie Betts leaped and was interfered with by fans in the stands, so Altuve was called out instead. The ruling was upheld after review.

In the bottom of the second, the Astros officially scored their first run when Carlos Correa knocked home a run with a single. The Red Sox immediately got it back when Xander Bogaerts doubled in a run in the top of the third, running the score to 3-1. In what would become a trend, the Astros also responded as George Springer drilled a solo homer and Josh Reddick hit an RBI single of his own to tie the game at 3-3. Tony Kemp added a solo homer down the right field line in the fourth to put the Astros on top for the first time. Bogaerts hit another RBI single in the top of the fifth to re-tie the game at 4-4. Correa followed suit in the bottom half, hitting his second RBI single of the game to give the Astros back the lead.

Jackie Bradley, Jr., who hit a soul-crushing grand slam off of Roberto Osuna in Game 3, hit another homer in Game 4, a two-run shot in the sixth off of Josh James. In the seventh, the Red Sox loaded the bases with two outs and Lance McCullers, Jr. entered to try to put out the fire. He did not, briefly, walking Brock Holt to force in a run and make the score 7-5. McCullers did end up getting out of the inning without any further damage. Just for good measure, though, J.D. Martinez tacked on a run in the eighth with an RBI single to make it 8-5.

Ryan Brasier got five outs and Matt Barnes one in the sixth and seventh. Manager Alex Cora decided to call on Craig Kimbrel for a six-out save when the bottom of the eighth rolled around. The 2018 postseason hasn’t been kind to Kimbrel as he had given up runs in all three of his appearances. Kimbrel gave up hits to the first three batters he faced. Kemp led off with a single but he tried to stretch it into a double and was thrown out at second base by Betts. Kimbrel then hit Alex Bregman with a pitch and surrendered a double to George Springer, putting runners at second and third with one out. Altuve knocked in a run with a ground out to make it 8-6, but Kimbrel saw his way out of the inning by striking out Marwin González.

In the ninth, Cora decided to keep Kimbrel in the ballgame despite his continued struggles. Kimbrel got Yuli Gurriel to pop up to start the inning, but then issued back-to-back walks to Reddick and Correa. Kimbrel got out number two by getting Brian McCann to fly out to right field, then walked Tony Kemp to load the bases. Cora decided to stay with Kimbrel as Bregman came to the plate. Kimbrel threw a first-pitch, 97 MPH fastball that Bregman laced into shallow left field. Andrew Benintendi charged in and dived, catching the ball just in time to save the game, ending it for an 8-6 victory. Of the 18 half-innings, the two sides failed to score in only seven of them.

The Red Sox, now up three games to one in the ALCS, will try to close it out on Thursday night in Houston. If the Red Sox win, they will return to the World Series for the first time since 2013.