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Friedrich torments his former team

MLB.com

SAN DIEGO -- Christian Friedrich labored through a 24-pitch first inning against his former team Saturday night, and two innings later was on the receiving end of a 109-mph line drive off the bat of former Rockies teammate DJ LeMahieu.

Fortunately, the ball hit the meat of his left thigh, but things weren't looking great for the San Diego southpaw, as he noticed LeMahieu grinning at him while standing safely on first base.

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SAN DIEGO -- Christian Friedrich labored through a 24-pitch first inning against his former team Saturday night, and two innings later was on the receiving end of a 109-mph line drive off the bat of former Rockies teammate DJ LeMahieu.

Fortunately, the ball hit the meat of his left thigh, but things weren't looking great for the San Diego southpaw, as he noticed LeMahieu grinning at him while standing safely on first base.

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Six innings later though, Friedrich was the one with a smirk on his face, as the Padres took down the Rockies 6-3 thanks to seven shutout innings and career-high tying 10 strikeouts.

"[I] told him I was going to pop him in the quad in the second inning every start to see if it gets him going," said Padres manager Andy Green after the game. "He really settled in… pretty much sailed through the next six. He was outstanding."

For the second time this season, Friedrich shut down the team that drafted him, limiting the Rockies to just two hits and one walk. Immediately after taking the line drive from LeMahieu, the 29-year-old went into lockdown mode, retiring the final 13 batters he faced.

"His curveball, he got ahead with it with strikes, and then threw it down in the dirt and got guys to chase it," LeMehieu said. "He just looked really confident out there, really good...

"Sucks it happens against us, but I'm happy for him and he's pitching great."

After Friedrich tossed six innings in his previous start against Colorado, without allowing an earned run, it's worth asking whether he gets some extra motivation when facing the team that designated him for assignment.

"Obviously I'd be lying to say it didn't feel good to pitch well against them," Friedrich said.

Green thinks there might be something to that, but added that Friedrich matches up well against the Rockies and also showed some of his best breaking pitches during this outing.

"I'm sure every single player kind of relishes that opportunity and he's risen up twice against them and thrown the ball very well," Green said. "...I think he's had a few times where he's flashed a plus breaking ball, and that was what it was today."

Friedrich finished half of his strikeouts with a breaking ball Saturday, and generated whiffs on 35.3 percent of his sliders (6-of-17) and 12.5 percent of his curve balls (3-of-24), according to Brooks Baseball.

"Curveball was all right, [the] slider was really on point today," Friedrich said. "[Derek Norris] was great at calling them at the right times and when you have that extra confidence when he's throwing the fingers down and you're expecting what he's going to call it made a really big difference."

Whether it was the shot of adrenaline after being struck in the third inning, the breaking balls, or the extra motivation against the Rockies, Friedrich managed to turn in his best start of the season. And he seems to be primed to do it all over again in his next start.

After all, he matches up well with the opponent.

"I think next time I'm going against them again," Friedrich said, "So we'll just forget about this one tonight and get ready for them again."

Carlos Collazo is a reporter for MLB.com based in San Diego. Follow him on Twitter @CarlosACollazo.

San Diego Padres, Christian Friedrich