Aaron Judge weighs in on A’s using opener in wild card game
The Oakland Athletics will trot out an opener for Wednesday’s AL wild card game showdown against the New York Yankees. Aaron Judge believes the Yankees’ familiarity with the practice diminishes some of its significance.
The A’s announced on Tuesday that reliever Liam Hendriks will “open” Wednesday’s match-up at Yankee Stadium. Judge noted that the Yankees have grown somewhat accustomed to facing openers due to divisional matchups with the Tampa Bay Rays, who launched the unconventional strategy that is slowly turning into a minor MLB trend.
“We’ve been doing it all year against Tampa,’’ Judge said Tuesday, via the New York Post. “It’s nothing new [for us]. The experience does help us out a little bit. We play Tampa so many times, and if it’s not [Blake] Snell pitching, they’re usually coming with an opener and I’m seeing four or five pitchers a game. Just having that experience is gonna help us out.”
The Rays used openers in two late-September games against the Yankees, both of which New York won. However, Judge did admit it forces batters into making adjustments, saying the “biggest thing is you can’t really have those at-bats to get comfortable” is among the biggest challenges.
“When you’re facing a different guy every at-bat, he’s coming at you with his best stuff,” Judge said. “There’s no warm-up, there’s no ‘see a pitch.’ You’ve got to be locked in from the very first pitch. … The biggest thing is do your homework before the game starts.”
Perhaps just as important as it pertains to Judge is the slugger says his injured wrist feels good and that he “wouldn’t have been playing the past couple of weeks if I wasn’t ready.”
That said, Judge has not quite yet regained his form following a lengthy layoff after suffering a chip fracture of his right ulnar styloid bone on July 26. Since returning to the lineup on Sept. 18, Judge has slashed at a .220/.333/.341 clip with one home run and six RBI in 41 at-bats.
And now he’ll again have to deal with another opener in Wednesday’s winner-take-all showdown.