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Hedges goes yard as Padres drop opener

San Diego catchers combining for encouraging numbers in September
September 17, 2018

SAN DIEGO -- In the big leagues, it's awfully hard to find quality young catchers who can contribute regularly at the plate.The Padres might have found two of them.A day after Francisco Mejia cranked a walk-off grand slam against the Rangers, Austin Hedges went deep against San Francisco in a

SAN DIEGO -- In the big leagues, it's awfully hard to find quality young catchers who can contribute regularly at the plate.
The Padres might have found two of them.
A day after Francisco Mejia cranked a walk-off grand slam against the Rangers, Austin Hedges went deep against San Francisco in a 4-2 Padres defeat on Monday night. Hedges turned on a 2-0 slider from Giants starter Andrew Suarez and sent it off the facing of the second deck in left field, giving the Padres a second-inning lead.
That lead quickly evaporated. Brandon Crawford and Evan Longoria homered against Padres starter Bryan Mitchell, who allowed four runs in five innings while striking out four. Suarez, meanwhile, settled in for 7 2/3 innings of two-run ball in which he allowed five hits.
Hedges' home run was the loudest. It was his 14th of the season, and it continued his torrid second half.
"I've been surging for three months," Hedges said. "I don't know if anything's changed in that time. I've just been trusting the process."
Hedges and Mejia have shared time behind the plate since Mejia's callup two weeks ago. Since the calendar turned to September, no team has gotten more offensive production from its backstops than the Padres, and it's really not even close.
This month, San Diego catchers have combined to hit .346/.375/.788 with six homers. Their 159 wRC+ is 21 points better than the second-place Marlins.
"Both of them are good hitters," manager Andy Green said. "Austin was doing that before Franky showed up, and Franky was doing that in A ball when he hit in 50 games in a row. They both can hit."

The Padres traded for Mejia, MLB Pipeline's top-ranked catching prospect, in July, just before Hedges began to heat up. Hedges remains adamant that's pure coincidence.
"I was hitting homers before he got here," Hedges said. "So, no, I don't think anything's changed."
In the future, Mejia could see time in the outfield as well, giving the Padres a chance to get both bats in the lineup. For now, the duo will continue to share time behind the plate exclusively.
"There's not a day that goes by that I don't want to put them both in the lineup right now," said Green. "That's just where we are right now. We might find a way to do that in the future, but for this year, we're committed to just letting Mejia catch."
Two good young catchers are better than none, after all.
Mitchell returned from the disabled list at the beginning of September after missing three months with a right elbow impingement. He had a month to turn around a season that veered off the rails quickly in April and May. When he landed on the DL in early June, his ERA had soared above 7.
Mitchell has now made three starts since his return. His first two produced better results -- two earned runs in 11 innings -- and he's found some success with this two-seam fastball. But on the whole, he's done little to solidify his roster standing. Mitchell struck out just eight in those three outings, and he's walked five (though he didn't surrender any free passes on Monday night).

"I feel like I'm on the right track still," Mitchell said. "I feel like I threw the ball just as well tonight as the last two. Just a couple pitches here and there I could've made a little better, but a lot of positives to take from it."
The Padres expect a 40-man roster crunch this offseason with a handful of prospects who must be added to squad. Mitchell is almost certainly going to be on the bubble.
Brad Wieck pitched a 1-2-3 inning in his big league debut Friday night against the Rangers. Afterward, he noted it couldn't have gone any better. Then he paused.
"Maybe a punchy mixed in," he said. "That would've been cool."
Wieck got that first career "punchy" Thursday night, setting down Austin Slater with an 0-2 fastball on the inside corner. Then he got three more. The rookie left-hander struck out four Giants in the sixth and seventh innings, allowing one hit in the process.

"He's different than what he was last year and even in spring when we saw him at 95, 97 [mph]," Green said. "It's in the low 90s right now, but it's a lot more strikes, a lot more command, and people still aren't getting great [swings] off."
After a leadoff walk in the first inning Monday night, William Myers swiped his 10th base of the season. In doing so, he tied Texas' Jurickson Profar for the most steals this year for a player who's yet to be caught.
"I've committed to what I'm doing mechanically, and not changing it no matter what. When you go through the roller coaster, something feels right one day and not the next day. When you go in and work on your swing on a daily basis, you can't help but think about it in the box. Now, I know my swing plays, I know what I can do." -- Hedges, on his second-half successes
Rookie left-hander Joey Lucchesi has three starts remaining in an excellent rookie campaign. His 3.67 ERA is the lowest by a Padres rookie with at least 100 innings since Cory Luebke in 2011. The first of those three starts comes Tuesday night vs. San Francisco, with first pitch slated for 7:10 p.m. PT. The Giants counter with left-hander Derek Holland.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.