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  • A handful of baseball's most talented hitters and pitchers dive into the opponents they least enjoy facing on the diamond.
By Connor Grossman
July 19, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Every player has a pitcher or hitter they can't seem to figure out. Whether or not they like to admit it, that guy is out there.

Some players freely admit their defeat. Some take a moment to survey who really owns them the most. Some know the answer but could never stand to give that player the satisfaction of knowing.

A wide selection of All-Stars offered their answers below this week after being prompted with question: Who is the one guy you hate to face?

ALL-STAR HITTERS ON THE PITCHER THEY HATE TO FACE

Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado

(Mets starter Jacob) deGrom’s given me a really hard time in my career. (Giants starter) Johnny Cueto’s given me a really hard time. (Diamondbacks starter) Zack Greinke’s given me a really hard time. I faced Zack probably more than anyone. Ever since my rookie year he’s been in the same division so I’ve faced him more than anyone and I don’t think I’ve ever hit a homer off of him and I have (55) at-bats against him. I feel like when you have a certain amount of at-bats, sooner or later you gotta be able to pop one out, you know? I still haven’t been able to do it against him. …It feels like he knows what I’m thinking when I’m hitting. That’s what it feels like sometimes.

Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon

I hate to face pretty much anybody that’s a sidearm lefty. … I don’t want to give anyone that much credit. I don’t want to point them out because then he’ll own me if he knows I hate to face him. I can’t name names, I’m sorry.

Who owns Blackmon: Mets starter Jacob deGrom (two hits in 19 at-bats [.105 AVG])

Indians outfielder Michael Brantley

There’s more than one. There’s a lot of good pitchers out there. I’m lefthanded, so lefthanders will always give (me) problems, especially when they’re good pitchers. I don’t want to give people too much credit. ... There (are guys who have owned me,) you can check the stats. There definitely is somebody. But I don’t want to give him too much credit.

Our best guess: Red Sox starter Chris Sale (seven hits in in 36 at-bats with 12 strikeouts, Brantley's most whiffs against any pitcher).

Astros third baseman Alex Bregman

(A's closer) Blake Treinen. He embarrassed me and made me hit a ball three feet in front of the plate.

Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford

I don’t want to give somebody in my division too much credit, so I’ll go with Chris Sale. As a lefty, he’s coming from behind you basically and throwing upper 90s with a good slider. That’s not fun.

Mariners outfielder Nelson Cruz

I think (Cardinals reliever) Luke Gregerson is the one I always have trouble against. … It’s not only me. I asked other righthander hitters and they didn’t like facing him either.

Cruz vs. Gregerson: two hits in 23 at-bats (.087 AVG) with 11 strikeouts and one home run.

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman

(Indians reliever) Brad Hand. I just don’t know. The ball just does not seem to hit my bat. Brad Hand, for me, his motion, and he has a two-seam (fastball) that he always seems to throw inside so it gets you conscious and then he has a devastating slider. I’m glad I don’t have to face him too much.

Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt

I can’t say that. I can’t give them any advantage. I’ll say this: With all the best guys in the game, whether it’s starting pitchers, like us facing Kershaw or Jansen or any other guys, it’s one of those things that’s like, “Man it’s really tough because they’re the best.” You know your numbers probably aren’t going to be as good. But it’s also really fun because it’s that challenge. If you beat them, if you can beat one of the best closers in the game, you know you got them on their best day. You know you got one of the best in the game.

Who's owned Goldschmidt: Cubs starter Tyler Chatwood (three hits in 19 at-bats [.158 AVG] with five strikeouts).

Indians catcher Yan Gomes

I don’t want to say I hate facing him, because I feel like I see him and I don’t get hits, but José Quintana. For some reason he kinda has my number. … If I knew (why), it hopefully wouldn’t be happening.

Gomes vs. Quintana: two hits in 18 at-bats (.111 AVG) with nine strikeouts.

Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp

Are people really answering this question? You’re not supposed to answer this question. I don’t want to let them know that I don’t like facing ‘em. I don’t want to say it, man. … There’s definitely one guy I don’t like to face too much because my numbers aren’t too good aginst that person. He’s plays in this city [Washington D.C.] I’m sure you can go Google the numbers. It seems like I’m always talking about this guy. I’m not going to say his name but I think you know who the guy is.

Our best guess: Max Scherzer (six hits in 46 at-bats [.130 AVG] with 14 strikeouts).

Red Sox first baseman Mitch Moreland

Yeah he’s my teammate, thank goodness. You’ve probably got this answer before: Chris Sale. The other one is also my teammate, Craig Kimbrel.

On remembering his first at-bat against Sale: “He came out of the bullpen and I’m pretty sure I got a hit off him in my first at-bat. I think it was a single in Texas off the very top of the wall and it kicked right back to the rightfielder and I had to stay at first. I think it pissed him off because I ain’t got close to getting a hit off him since.”

Royals catcher Salvador Perez

(Dodgers starter) Clayton Kershaw. Because he’s the best. He’s nasty. (laughs)

Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto

(Mets closer) Jeurys Familia, especially when he’s on. For righties he’s a really tough at-bat. His fastball, I mean it looks like a splitfinger, honestly, with the movement and how sharp it is. When he’s throwing it and he’s on, throwing 97–98 MPH, that’s pretty tough to get the barrel through as a righthander.

Astros outfielder George Springer

(A's reliever) Ryan Dull just eats me up. He knows it. They know it. And it is what it is.

Springer vs. Dull: no hits in 10 at-bats with three strikeouts.

Rockies shortstop Trevor Story

The toughest guy I’ve faced is Scherzer, I would say. … All of his stuff is plus. All of his stuff is really good. He’s got that mindset. You could just tell he really wants to get you out. He’s really good.

Angels outfielder Mike Trout

I’ve been telling people Scherzer, but sitting next to Chris Sale, he’s got everything flying at you. He’s been throwing hard but now he’s like 101 MPH.  … He throws that slider, it’s tough. It’s a battle.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto

Pirates closer (Felipe) Vazquez is probably about as tough as it gets …  He’s got a tremendous fastball. He’s got a slider that’s very difficult to pick up—you can swing and miss on it. He can still throw a changeup. He’s just steady when he’s on the attack. He’s tough.

Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich

I don’t know. I don’t ever really like giving guys credit like that. There’s obviously guys that are more difficult than others. … It’s weird, though. Certain (pitchers) that other people think are really nasty, you see those guys really well. Then other (pitchers) you just don’t see well at all, other guys can’t wait to face them. It’s a funny game that way.

Who's owned Yelich: Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg (eight hits in 37 at-bats [.216 AVG] with 14 strikeouts—Yelich’s most against any pitcher)

ALL-STAR PITCHERS ON THE HITTER THEY HATE TO FACE

Indians starter Trevor Bauer

My daddy: Manny Machado. He’s got like 10 at-bats off me and 20 homers. I’ve basically accepted my fate on that one. At some point I’m going to have to throw you a fastball and the one fastball I throw you is going to go 400 feet and I’m fine with it. It’s OK.

Bauer on his reaction seeing Machado’s name in the Orioles’ scouting report: “What are we going to talk about? I’m going to throw him breaking stuff. If I throw it for a strike he’s probably going to take it. I’m going to miss the zone a couple times and end up in a count where I walk him or I have to throw him a fastball. And if I have to throw him a fastball he hits it out and if I walk him he’s not going to swing. There’s nothing to even scout.”

Twins starter José Berríos

It’s always hard to face a big hitter, but it’s fun at the same time because you have to compete and make your pitches and try to be better than him. I don’t have any hitter in particular I don’t want to face.

Who's owned Berríos: Royals infielder Alcides Escobar (six hits in 15 at-bats [.400 AVG] with four extra-base hits)

Astros starter Gerrit Cole

(A's catcher) Jonathan Lucroy just sees the ball well, man. Everything. He’s hit the curve, the (changeup), the fastball, slider, two-seam, four-seam. Hits it all. And he’s in (the American) League now.

Diamondbacks starter Patrick Corbin

It was (Giants outfielder) Hunter Pence for a little bit. He always gave me a hard time, personally. I’d say one of the hardest would be Joey Votto with how tough he is and just fights off pitches. He’s so good with the bat and doesn’t strike out much. … Wherever you pitch him, he’ll just a hit a little single the other way. If you make a mistake, he’s going to pull it. You have to be careful with a guy like that. Those guys that go up there and get an 8-10-pitch at-bat, those are what really hurt starters trying to pitch deeper into ballgames.

Mets starter Jacob deGrom

I don’t know, that’s a tough question. I like facing everybody. That’s part of competing.

Who's owned deGrom: Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich (14 hits in 32 at-bats [.438 AVG])

Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz

He’s here—Brandon Crawford. It’s just funny, over the past few years I just can’t seem to get him out. I think the first time we faced him this year, my pitching coach just laughed at me. We were going over everybody in the (Giants’ lineup) and we got to Brandon Crawford and he just said “Good luck. Just throw whatever you can at him.” If I try to pitch around him he’s still slapping the ball into the leftcenter gap, rightcenter gap or over the wall.

Indians reliever Brad Hand

I feel (Nationals infielder) Ryan Zimmerman always rakes me. Every time I face him I feel like even if he gets out, it’s always hard contact right at somebody. He’s always been my guy.

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen

I don’t hate to face no hitter. I’m not afraid to face any hitter.

Who's owned Jansen: Giants catcher Buster Posey (eight hits in 22 at-bats [.364 AVG] and three walks)

Brewers reliever Jeremy Jeffress

As of right now it’s (Pirates infielder) Jordy Mercer. It’s just something. I guess he sees me well. I don’t know how position players are when they’re looking at pitchers, but I guess he sees me well. It was like that with Neil Walker a couple years ago. That Pittsburgh Pirates thing, I don’t know, it must be something.

Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel

Nope. There’s a lot of guys out there who have gotten me.

Who's owned Kimbrel: Mets infielder Jose Reyes (five hits in eight at-bats [.625 AVG])

Indians starter Corey Kluber

Throughout the course of my career, I think Miguel Cabrera’s had my number a few times. But I’m probably not the only person in that position. The “why” is pretty self-explanatory.

Astros starter Charlie Morton

I always hated facing Lance Berkman and Chase Utley and Angel Pagan. I couldn’t get him out. Pagan, in particular. Lefties used to give me a terrible time. It used to be awful. I always had these bad visions in my head of lefties, especially the good ones.

Rays starter Blake Snell

Aaron Judge, because he just hits the ball so hard and when I saw him almost kill Jumbo Diaz on a line drive up the middle, that kind of set the tone for me.

Dodgers starter Ross Stripling

This year Javy Baez and (Mike) Trout are like 8-for-8 off me. Trout I think is the obvious one because he’s so talented. He doesn’t really have any holes. But I would probably say Javy Baez because you can throw it a foot in the other batter’s box and he can hit a missile to rightfield. Just a guy that doesn’t have a strike zone and you’re like, “What can I throw that he’s not going to be on?”

Astros starter Justin Verlander

(Royals catcher Salvador) Perez has had a lot of success off me. Even if he doesn’t hit it hard he seems to get a base hit some how some way. He’s my guy.

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