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Mitchell makes strong '19 case with gem vs. SF

September 25, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO -- Bryan Mitchell saved his best start of the season for his last one.With his performance over the past month, he may have saved himself a place in the Padres' future plans, too.In a 5-0 victory on Monday night at AT&T Park, Mitchell carved up the Giants and

SAN FRANCISCO -- Bryan Mitchell saved his best start of the season for his last one.
With his performance over the past month, he may have saved himself a place in the Padres' future plans, too.
In a 5-0 victory on Monday night at AT&T Park, Mitchell carved up the Giants and came one batter shy of recording the Padres' first shutout this season. Instead, he settled for a career-high 8 2/3 innings, in which he struck out seven and allowed seven hits.
"As soon as I came back off the DL, I wanted to make a point to finish strong," said Mitchell, who had pitched past the sixth only once before. "The work I put in finally showed."
On the whole, Mitchell's 2018 season has been a disappointment. The Padres acquired him as the centerpiece of the deal in which they also took on Chase Headley (and his burdensome contract) from the Yankees. The right-hander struggled from the outset, posting a 7.08 ERA before he landed on the disabled list with an elbow impingement in early June.
As he approached full health, Mitchell spent nearly a month in the Minors in August. During that time, he honed a two-seam fastball, which has since become his most reliable weapon. He's made four starts since his September return, and he's posted a 2.19 ERA in that time.
"I didn't plan for this year to go the way it has, but it's been a learning experience in a sense," Mitchell said. "I'm definitely a different pitcher right now than I was. I'm using the two-seamer a lot. The curveball's always been my best pitch, but it's been elusive all year."
The Padres have a 40-man-roster crunch awaiting them ahead of December's Rule 5 Draft. Once on the roster bubble, Mitchell appears to have done enough to secure his place heading into next spring, when a dozen or so starters will compete for five rotation openings.
"Coming back from where he was early in the season, he's put himself in that discussion, in that competition -- and not so much as a long shot," said Padres manager Andy Green. "He's a real contender going into spring. I don't think anything's going to be handed to these guys. But if he shows that fastball all through Spring Training, he's going to be in real good shape."
Even within this September stretch, Mitchell looked like a different pitcher on Monday night. He attacked the strike zone and pumped 94-95 mph fastballs regularly in the late innings. He walked one batter through eight frames, before tiring a bit and walking a pair in the ninth.
The first free pass prompted a visit from Green, who opted to give Mitchell some leash with a five-run lead. Mitchell responded by striking out Aramis Garcia, before he put Gorkys Hernandez aboard with his 118th and final pitch. Closer Kirby Yates would slam the door. Mitchell, meanwhile, will have the offseason to recover -- and a strong finish to build on.

"I'm going to take this into next year and keep moving forward from this point," Mitchell said. "I know what works for me now."
Indeed, the Padres envisioned something like this when they traded for Mitchell at the Winter Meetings last December. They waited 9 1/2 long months to see it.
Franmil Reyes has been one of the best hitters in the Majors over the past two months. The biggest reason: the adjustments he's made to make it tough on opposing pitchers. Despite his 6-foot-5, 275-pound frame and the vicious swing, Reyes isn't all power.
He smashed opposite-field singles in the third and fifth innings Monday night against Giants starter Derek Holland. Then, in the sixth, he fell behind, 0-2, against reliever Ty Blach. With two men in scoring position, Reyes fought off a curveball and sent a grounder to second base that scored William Myers.

It was classic Reyes, hitting to the situation. As he trotted off the field, having given San Diego a 5-0 lead, he clapped his hands together in triumph. Metaphorically speaking, the entire Padres organization has done the same regarding Reyes this season.
The Padres have yet to throw a complete game this season, with Mitchell and Eric Lauer (on July 10 against the Dodgers) having come one out shy. In franchise history, only the 2011 edition has gone an entire season without a starter pitching a complete game.
In the top of the fourth, second baseman Jose Pirela homered to one of the deepest parts of the ballpark against Holland. Pirela demolished a 2-0 fastball from Holland, then he laughed his way around the bases, as he gave San Diego a 3-0 lead.

"At the beginning of the season, I wasn't having the success I would've liked. But I kept going out and expecting it to show up. At some point, you've got to realize what's not going to work." -- Mitchell, on the changes he made in his pitch mix
Left-hander Robbie Erlin is slated for his final start of the season on Tuesday in San Francisco with first pitch slated for 7:15 p.m. PT. Erlin's been a valuable member of the Padres' staff as a long reliever, but he's mostly struggled in his 11 starts this year. Still, he'll be squarely in the rotation mix next spring, and he looks to end his 2018 campaign on a positive note when he takes the hill opposite the Giants' Chris Stratton.

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