Diamondbacks’ Brandon Pfaadt braces for stern test vs. Dodgers

Coming off his best start of the season, Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Brandon Pfaadt will have a significant challenge ahead when he faces the host Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday.

Pfaadt gave up one run on two hits with nine strikeouts in a season high-tying seven innings in the Diamondbacks’ 2-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds last Wednesday. He threw 93 pitches, and every bit of the performance was needed in the tight victory.

Now Pfaadt (1-3, 4.17 ERA) faces the Dodgers, who have been as advertised on offense this season. Los Angeles leads the National League in batting average (.259), hits (439), walks (202), on-base percentage (.340), slugging percentage (.435), OPS (.775) and home runs (66).

In the series opener Monday, Freddie Freeman hit a third-inning grand slam, one of three home runs in the frame to propel Los Angeles to a 6-4 victory.

Pfaadt knows what the Dodgers offense is all about. He faced the Dodgers twice last season and took the loss each time. He gave up four runs in an Aug. 8 outing at home and six runs (five earned) in a road outing on Aug. 30 for a 9.35 ERA in 8 2/3 innings. Freeman and Jason Heyward each hit a home run in the second matchup.

Even with Wednesday’s strong outing, Pfaadt still has not earned a win since his season opener. He has gone 0-3 with a 4.41 ERA in his past eight starts but has begun to look like the pitcher who started Game 7 of the NL Championship Series against the Philadelphia Phillies and paved the way to a spot in the World Series.

“Our game plan was to use more sliders, and we certainly did that and it was super effective,” Pfaadt said of Wednesday’s outing. “So I think moving forward, that’s probably going to be our game plan, to pitch off of the slider a little bit more.”

The Dodgers will send right-hander Gavin Stone (4-1, 3.27) to the mound. Like Pfaadt, Stone is in his second major league season and has settled into a comfort zone.

Stone has allowed just one run in each of his past four starts. Over his past six outings, he is 4-0 with a 2.00 ERA.

In an outing last Tuesday against the San Francisco Giants, Stone earned the win against his team’s rival by allowing five hits. If there is a concern, he had three walks in that contest marking the third time in his last seven outings that he has issued at least three free passes.

‘You want all your players to be dependable and know what you’re gonna get when they go out there and play and he’s becoming that,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Stone, who will be making his first start against the Diamondbacks. “He’s on a nice run right now and I think this is who he is. He’s only going to get better.”

Enrique Hernandez and Will Smith also homered in the third inning on Monday but it was Freeman’s blast that was most encouraging. With at least 20 home runs in every non-pandemic season since 2016, Freeman entered the game on pace for 13 homers.

–Field Level Media