LOS ANGELES -- The Padres wanted their three rookie starters to experience the Dodger Stadium cauldron this weekend. Jacob Nix got that experience on Saturday night. And it's one he likely won't soon forget.From the second pitch he threw, the 22-year-old right-hander was hit hard, as the Padres dropped the
LOS ANGELES -- The Padres wanted their three rookie starters to experience the Dodger Stadium cauldron this weekend. Jacob Nix got that experience on Saturday night. And it's one he likely won't soon forget.
From the second pitch he threw, the 22-year-old right-hander was hit hard, as the Padres dropped the second game of their three-game series, 7-2. Joc Pederson led off the bottom of the first inning with a homer into the San Diego bullpen, and Manny Machado launched a three-run shot off Nix in a five-run third.
Nix wouldn't escape that third inning. He allowed six runs on six hits over 2 1/3 frames, and he once again struggled to finish hitters. Through eight starts, Nix is averaging just under five strikeouts per nine innings, and he saw his ERA jump to 6.81. Sure, Nix took an accelerated path to the big leagues, but he wasn't about to use that as an excuse.
"I still take these failures really hard," Nix said. "It sucks coming in here after that and knowing I let every single one in here down."
The Padres' first run came courtesy of Hunter Renfroe, who swatted a homer to straightaway center field in the sixth. It was Renfroe's second dinger in as many nights, and his 17th since the start of August -- the most in the Majors.
Renfroe went 2-for-4 and stole a base, but left-hander Rich Hill thoroughly stifled the San Diego offense otherwise. In his seven innings, only two other Padres reached base, both via singles. Manuel Margot had an RBI single as the Padres added a run in the ninth off the Dodgers bullpen.
As for Nix, the Padres will chalk it up to valuable experience. His quick ascension to the big leagues was by design. The organization likes Nix's mettle and felt he would be better served to develop here than in the Minors.
"Hopefully [it's] just a hands-on education," said Padres manager Andy Green. "To be good at this level, you've got to be better. There's work left to do. He's going to be competing for an opportunity to be in the rotation next year. He's not at the top of the list of guys, but he's in the mix, and he's going to have to step up and do something to prove that he belongs."
Nix, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Padres' No. 14 prospect, will make his final start next weekend against Arizona. Then he'll be thrust into a wide-open race for rotation spots in the spring.
In that regard, Nix is convinced he'll be better off for having spent a month and a half in the big leagues, however rocky it's been.
"It's motivation," Nix said. "You have to take everything to a whole 'nother level to compete here. Whether it's workouts, throwing program, everything has to have that heightened intensity -- which I felt was for the most part good. But it's time to turn it up even more."
Austin Hedges' value behind the plate is generally hard to spot with the naked eye. He's an excellent pitch framer, and he's regarded as a top-notch game-caller. Every now and then, however, Hedges' glove shines in ways that are a bit more visible.
"It's tough to make a web gem as a catcher," Hedges said. "Every time I get a chance to make a play for my pitchers, I definitely take a lot of pride in it."
On Saturday night, Hedges made two excellent catches on foul balls. In the bottom of the third, Hill squared to bunt and popped one behind the plate. Hedges sprung quickly from his crouch and made a basket grab.
He outdid himself two innings later on a Machado popup by the first-base dugout. Hedges sprinted toward the top step, and made an excellent grab, reaching over the railing.
"The second catch was crazy impressive," Green said. "I don't know of any other catcher in the game that makes that play."
HE SAID IT
"It's huge. Whether they do good or bad, the experience of being out here in an environment like Dodger Stadium … to have success, to have failures, to learn from it, to understand what it takes to prepare for a big league game -- there's so much to learn that they'll have a head start on it next year. ... Next year, those wide-eyed shellshocked first couple outings isn't going to be a thing because they'll have been there before." -- Hedges, on the young pitchers experiencing Dodger Stadium
Joey Lucchesi's start was moved forward by one day, so he could be thrown into the same environment as Nix. The rookie starts opposite fellow lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu at 1:10 p.m. PT. Lucchesi jumped ahead of Bryan Mitchell in the rotation, but he's still pitching on normal rest. He is looking to put the finishing touches on an impressive debut campaign in which he owns a 3.74 ERA in 24 starts.
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.