CLEVELAND -- After a homer in his first playoff game propelled the Yankees to a victory over the Twins in the American League Wild Card Game on Tuesday, Aaron Judge ran into a problem in his second game -- the devastating curveballs of the Indians' pitchers.The rookie slugger struggled in
CLEVELAND -- After a homer in his first playoff game propelled the Yankees to a victory over the Twins in the American League Wild Card Game on Tuesday, Aaron Judge ran into a problem in his second game -- the devastating curveballs of the Indians' pitchers.
The rookie slugger struggled in Thursday's 4-0 loss to the Tribe in Game 1 of the AL Division Series presented by Doosan. He went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts against starter Trevor Bauer, then completed the golden sombrero with another strikeout against closer Cody Allen in the eighth.
Judge is the fourth Yanks player to go 0-for-4 with four strikeouts in a postseason game, joining Johnny Damon (2009), Mickey Mantle (1953) and Tiny Bonham ('41). Judge only did that once in the regular season, back on May 21.
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Judge made contact on just three of his 10 swings -- all fouls -- and had particular trouble with curveballs. All four of his strikeouts came on the pitch -- two swinging, two looking -- and he could not manage much against Bauer.
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"He varies it," Judge said. "He likes to play around with it a little bit. He'll throw it in there a little softer, and then in certain counts, he'll go a little harder with it and change up the spin a little bit. He works with it."
Judge's job will likely only get harder in Friday's Game 2, as the Yankees take on AL Cy Young Award contender Corey Kluber, who has perhaps the game's best curveball. Kluber's .104 average against on the pitch is lowest among qualified pitchers, and opponents whiffed on 49.2 percent of their swings against his curve, second only to teammate Carlos Carrasco.
Curveballs have been an issue for Judge all season. He hit .215 with a .430 slugging percentage against breaking pitches, compared to .316 and .719 marks against fastballs and changeups. Additionally, Judge's 50.7-percent whiff rate against breaking balls was second only to Texas' Joey Gallo (51.8).
Kluber started twice against the Yanks this season, but Judge wasn't in the lineup either game. It should be quite the challenge -- and potential bounce-back opportunity -- for Judge.
"Yeah, you'd rather get at-bats against him," Judge said, "because the more you see a guy in the box, the more familiar you get with what his fastball is doing, or his slider or curveball and stuff like that. I'm going to watch some video and just prepare and get ready."
Ben Weinrib is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland. Follow him on Twitter at @benweinrib.