SAN DIEGO -- Last Friday, Jacob Nix was brilliant. The rookie right-hander worked six scoreless innings and became only the seventh Padre in history to work that deep in his debut without allowing a run.
It was the type of start that lent perfectly to overreaction.
On Thursday, in his encore performance, Nix was poor. He didn't make it out of the first inning, in the Padres' 5-1 series-opening loss to the D-backs. He allowed five runs and exited with the bases loaded.
It, too, lent perfectly to overreaction.
It's safe to say Nix will eventually settle somewhere in between those two polar opposites. For the Padres, that's why the season's final month and a half figures to be so useful. They'll get the opportunity to learn a lot about Nix -- and a handful of their other young starters -- at the big league level.
There will be nights like Friday, when optimism abounds. And there will be nights like Thursday, when reality sets in. The Padres currently carry a pitching staff with eight rookies, including three starters. There are going to be growing pains.
"It's an adjustment for everybody," Nix said afterward. "Most guys don't come up here and find immediate success. If you do, you're kind of a freak. I didn't expect to, and I still don't. There's still going to be some speedbumps along the way. But I want to stay, and I've got to keep putting the work in."
Nix was hit hard early. Jonathan Jay opened the game with a double and A.J. Pollock followed with a walk, before David Peralta blasted a three-run homer to straightaway center field. Seven of the first eight D-backs hitters reached base. Nix was removed after plunking Jay with his 42nd pitch.
Less than a year ago, Nix put forth a similarly dreadful start, allowing eight runs over two-thirds of an inning in his fourth outing after being promoted to Double-A San Antonio. Suffice it to say, he's come a long way since then. He entered Thursday's game with a 1.67 ERA across three levels this year.
"A lot can happen in a year," Nix said. "I think I've grown tremendously in that year. I'm here, and I'm here to stay. I'm going to learn how to do it up here, and I'm going to make the adjustments I need to."
Nix isn't the first Padres rookie starter to experience early trouble. Eric Lauer and Joey Lucchesi both bounced back.
"These three guys that have been in our rotation -- Lauer, Lucchesi and Nix -- they're to the big leagues as quick as anybody is," manager Andy Green said. "If you don't expect a few moments like this along the way, you're probably pretty naive."
Kazuhisa Makita was the first of five very effective Padres relievers. Makita escaped the first-inning jam and worked 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, allowing only one hit. Trey Wingenter, Phil Maton, Robert Stock and Matt Strahm also pitched scoreless ball -- though Wingenter exited early after being struck in the right forearm by a line drive.
Their efforts went for naught. The Padres could not solve D-backs right-hander Clay Buchholz, who threw a complete game, allowing five hits and his only run on a Hunter Renfroe homer in the eighth.
Makita's rookie season clearly hasn't gone as planned. The Padres signed the veteran reliever from Japan to a two-year deal worth $3.8 million during the offseason. Despite his low velocity, the Padres thought the quirks in his submarine-style delivery might be enough to keep hitters off-balance.
That hasn't been the case. Makita owns a 6.10 ERA, and he's spent a chunk of the year with Triple-A El Paso. But he'll get the chance to salvage his season over the next eight weeks, and he took advantage on Thursday night with 3 1/3 very good innings.
"The thing that I was working on down in the Minors was to be able to get back to my style of pitching," Makita said through a team interpreter. "I didn't have the results early on. I think that snowballed in the wrong way."
On top of his solid effort on the mound, Makita got a rare at-bat in his long-relief effort. Including his seven seasons in Japan, Makita is 0-for-29 with 24 strikeouts.
Yet he managed to scorch a 99-mph liner to left field that was tracked down by Peralta. That's 16 mph harder than the fastest pitch he's thrown this season, and it was higher than the exit velocity on any batted ball that he allowed Thursday.
"That ball was crushed," Green said. "It would've been nice to see him get a hit right there."
SPANGY AT SHORT
Utility man Cory Spangenberg can now add two innings at shortstop to his resume, though he didn't get any ground balls hit in his direction after moving to short in the eighth. Green noted that Spangenberg might see further time there late this season. If Spangenberg can serve as a true backup shortstop, it'd certainly increase his value to the Padres going forward.
HE SAID IT
"As you have these outings and you come back from these outings, you start to get an indication of how these guys are wired and how they respond to adversity. That's the clearest sign you're going to get to how great somebody's going to be in the long run. The measure of their greatness will always be in the resiliency." -- Green, on evaluating his young starters
Lucchesi looks to build on his already impressive rookie season when the Padres host the D-backs on Friday night at 7:10 p.m. PT. The funky left-hander owns a 3.45 ERA in 18 starts this season and is coming off six innings of two-hit ball against the Phillies. Arizona counters with left-hander Robbie Ray, and Christian Villanueva could earn his first career start at second base.