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Padres' offense blanked as Mitchell struggles

MLB.com @AJCassavell

SAN DIEGO -- When the Padres acquired Bryan Mitchell from the Yankees in a December trade, they believed they had landed a rotation project with plenty of upside. If that upside is there, it's still waiting to be tapped.

Three games into his Padres tenure, Mitchell has totaled more walks (14) than innings (12 2/3) -- though he hasn't exactly gotten much help from his offense. The 26-year-old right-hander lasted only three frames in a 7-0 loss to the Giants on Thursday night, a game in which the Padres were one-hit in historic fashion.

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SAN DIEGO -- When the Padres acquired Bryan Mitchell from the Yankees in a December trade, they believed they had landed a rotation project with plenty of upside. If that upside is there, it's still waiting to be tapped.

Three games into his Padres tenure, Mitchell has totaled more walks (14) than innings (12 2/3) -- though he hasn't exactly gotten much help from his offense. The 26-year-old right-hander lasted only three frames in a 7-0 loss to the Giants on Thursday night, a game in which the Padres were one-hit in historic fashion.

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The Padres' lone hit came from starter Clayton Richard, who pinch-hit for Mitchell in the bottom of the third. The Padres are the only team in the modern era (since 1900) to have their lone hit come from a pitcher in a pinch-hitting appearance. Otherwise, Giants right-hander Chris Stratton held the rest of the Padres hitless over seven innings, and reliever Derek Law closed out the one-hitter.

"I don't think at any point in time today could you look at our at-bats and think they were good," Padres manager Andy Green said. "This was not a good baseball game."

Video: SF@SD: Richard pinch-hits, notches Padres' only knock

The Giants jumped in front with three runs in the top of the first, two of which scored after a controversial no-call on a Brandon Crawford check swing. Instead of an inning-ending strikeout, Crawford walked, and Hunter Pence's two-run single plated a pair. San Francisco added four more runs in the sixth, putting the game out of reach.

By then, Mitchell's night was long over. He walked three in the first inning, and two more in the second. The right-hander threw 61 pitches, only 32 for strikes, and recorded only two swing-and-misses.

"[I was] just trying to nibble too much, rather than attacking guys and being in the zone early," said Mitchell, who allowed three runs in three innings and struck out two. "It's hard enough to pitch as it is. When you're giving free passes and falling behind, it's even harder."

Video: SF@SD: Green on pitching struggles, offensive woes

Mitchell was the centerpiece of a trade that also brought Chase Headley to San Diego. The Padres felt that Mitchell, if given the right opportunity, could flourish in the starting rotation. (He had never been given such a chance with the Yankees.)

The Padres still feel that way. Green pointed to his prior start -- 5 2/3 scoreless innings in Houston -- as evidence of what Mitchell is capable of.

"He's had plenty in his history where you look at that and think, 'That's going to play,'" Green said. "We have to find that and help that show more often."

The Padres raved about Mitchell's curveball in the spring, but Thursday marked his third straight start in which he threw more balls than strikes with the pitch. On Saturday in Houston, he limited damage with an effective fastball down in the strike zone. He couldn't replicate that against the Giants.

Even though Mitchell has plenty of relief experience, he will continue to get an opportunity in the Padres' rotation. He's under team control for four seasons, and the club has already invested in his future as a starter.

"The challenge is out in front of him," Green said. "We believe in the stuff. We believe in what he can do. It's time to do it."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Clayton at the bat: Hoping to save a few of his bench options for later in the game, Green used Richard as a pinch-hitter in the third. (On Monday, Richard launched his third career home run -- a three-run shot in Colorado.) Richard hit a blooper over the outstretched glove of second baseman Joe Panik, but the rally was quickly stifled when he was doubled off on a Franchy Cordero liner to third.

"He's a hitting pitcher that we like right now," Green said. "He's swung the bat well, and we have a relatively thin bench, a four-man bench, and it's the third inning of a ballgame. So you're looking for somebody who can get on base in that situation. He did it. Without it, it'd be a lot different story tonight."

Make 'em earn it: The Padres could've kept the game within reach, if not for a costly error from third baseman Christian Villanueva in the top of the sixth. With the bases loaded and two outs, right-hander Colten Brewer, who was making his Major League debut, got Andrew McCutchen to hit a grounder to third. Villanueva set himself, but he appeared to rush his throw, and the ball kicked away from first baseman Eric Hosmer. Two runs scored on the play, and two more scored on the ensuing Buster Posey double.

Video: SF@SD: Pence, Blanco come home on throwing error

SOUND SMART
The Padres had never previously played a game in which a pitcher recorded their only hit -- whether as a starter, reliever or pinch-hitter. It's been 83 years since a pitcher recorded his team's only hit in a game he didn't start. Pittsburgh reliever Mace Brown did so on June 28, 1935, against the Cubs.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Padres catcher Austin Hedges has long been known for his defensive prowess. In the third, he outdid even his own lofty standards. With one out, Giants center fielder Gregor Blanco popped a bunt attempt behind home plate. Hedges sprung from his crouch and made an incredible dive to rob Blanco. Then, from his backside, he fired to first base, doubling up Brandon Crawford, who had broken for second on the pitch. More >

Video: Must C Crafty: Hedges dives, catches popup, turns two

UP NEXT
Tyson Ross is the only Padres starter to log six innings in two starts this year. He'll look to do it again Friday night against the Giants at 7:10 p.m. PT. Ross was sharp last time out against the Astros, but he hung a fifth-inning slider, which became a three-run homer. Left-hander Ty Blach will start for the Giants.

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

San Diego Padres, Bryan Mitchell, Clayton Richard