Nix started his MLB career with six scoreless innings, striking out four, walking two and yielding four hits. The 22-year-old settled in after opening with a pair of inefficient innings, allowing just one baserunner over the next four frames against the National League East-leading Phillies for his first MLB win.
"It was a special night, one he's going to remember the rest of his life," Padres manager Andy Green said. "You relish those moments as a manager, to watch a young guy step up like that and have that type of a debut. That's a lot of fun."
With his cheering section clearly audible in the Petco Park crowd, Southern California native Nix, the Padres' No. 14 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, became the seventh Padres starter to throw six or more scoreless innings in his big league debut and the first since Odrisamer Despaigne threw seven scoreless on June 23, 2014.
Nix's season started later than usual due to a groin injury, but he posted strong results in the Minors once he returned to the mound. The 2015 third-rounder registered a 1.84 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 58 2/3 innings this season between Double-A San Antonio and El Paso. That delay gave Padres catcher Austin Hedges an opportunity to catch Nix while rehabbing in extended spring training.
"He dominated that, but he dominated this just as much," Hedges said.
Finishing at 88 pitches in six innings, Nix said he thought he could have pitched a seventh inning, but Green wanted to make sure the rookie didn't come away with a loss.
"I was going to cover him," Green said. "I wasn't going to let him be in a position to walk away from that game with a loss, so we had Matt Strahm up early in the sixth. Not because [Nix] hadn't thrown the ball well, but just because we wanted to make sure a guy gets out of his debut with a good line intact and feels good about himself."
Nix's strong debut overshadowed a solid effort from Phillies starter Zach Eflin, who struck out eight in six innings and allowed two earned runs. It was the second straight shutout loss for the Phillies, who fell into a tie for first place in their division with the Braves, thanks to Atlanta's 10-1 win against the Brewers.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED A powerful battery: As far as the support Nix received during his debut, look no further than his batterymate, Hedges. Hedges scored both runs to continue his hot streak. Since returning from the DL on June 24, Hedges is hitting .314/.391/.562.
Hedges hit a bloop single in the second inning for the Padres' first hit of the game, then stole second and came home on Freddy Galvis' RBI single. He homered off Eflin in the fourth inning for his ninth long ball of the year and notched his first career game with both a home run and stolen base.
One last chance: The Phillies managed to bring the winning run to the plate in the ninth inning against Padres closer Kirby Yates, with Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco each hitting singles to lead off the inning. That would be the closest they would get, though, as Yates struck out the next two batters and induced a weak grounder to finish the game.
UP NEXT The Padres have recently been using a six-man rotation, but right-hander Walker Lockett, who has a 9.28 ERA in 10 2/3 innings pitched with San Diego, could be competing for a spot if the team moves back to a conventional rotation. That begins with his start Saturday, facing Phillies ace Aaron Nola (12-3, 2.37 ERA) at 5:40 p.m. PT.