Amid playoff push, D-backs hope to stop Aaron Judge, Yanks

Field Level Media

September 23, 2023 at 6:38 am.

Locked in a competitive National League wild-card race, three bad pitches to Aaron Judge doomed the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night.

Arizona attempts to make better pitches to Judge and hopes it can avoid a rainout Saturday when it continues a three-game series with the host New York Yankees.

With eight games left, Arizona (81-73) owns a one-game lead over the Chicago Cubs for the second of three wild-card spots. The Diamondbacks’ five-game winning streak ended in a 7-1 loss when Judge hit three-run, two-run and solo home runs.

“You can’t make mistakes to him,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said of Judge, the first player in Yankees history with multiple three-homer games in a season.

The Diamondbacks may not get a chance to stop Judge at all. Heavy rain is predicted for the New York area on Saturday. And while a rainout would prompt a doubleheader on Sunday, rain is also in the forecast that day. The teams can’t play Monday because Arizona will be visiting the Chicago White Sox.

“We’re in a great spot,” Lovullo said. “I managed the game at a certain point today to just hang onto some arms, and we’re going to be fine. We’re going to be ready to make adjustments. This whole thing is going to be extremely fluid over the next 24 to 36 hours, and we know that we’ll be ready to play baseball whenever they tell us.”

The Yankees (78-76) are on the verge of being officially eliminated from the playoff race but are attempting to win three straight after getting standout performances from ace Gerrit Cole and Judge.

A night after Cole pitched eight outstanding innings in a 5-3 win over Toronto, Judge produced his second career three-homer game while tying career highs with four hits and six RBIs.

“You’re watching a great player. That’s greatness,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “He’s just different than everyone else.”

After rookie Brandon Pfaadt allowed two of Judge’s homers, right-hander Zach Davies (2-5, 6.81 ERA) is expected to start for Arizona and will be trying to end a three-start winless slide.

Since allowing one run in six innings against the visiting Baltimore Orioles on Sept. 1, Davies has been tagged for 11 runs in 11 innings while getting three straight no-decisions, including Sept. 16 when he allowed three runs on five hits in four innings versus the Cubs.

Davies is facing the Yankees for the first time.

Left-hander Carlos Rodon (3-6, 5.90), whose performances have improved lately, makes the team’s final home start in his first season of his six-year deal. Rodon is 1-1 with a 3.09 ERA over his past two outings and allowed three runs on six hits in 6 2/3 innings while getting 10 strikeouts on Sunday in Pittsburgh.

Rodon has particularly struggled at home. He is 1-3 with a 6.59 ERA in six starts. Rodon is pitching at home for the first time since getting shelled for seven runs in 3 2/3 innings Sept. 7 against the Detroit Tigers.

He is 0-2 with a 5.91 ERA in four career starts against Arizona.