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Padres' Erlin pitches Peoria into AFL Finals

Robbie Erlin delivered in Thursday's clinching game for Peoria, but there's still one more game to play before anyone can think about celebrating.

"We're just going to save that for Saturday if we win," Erlin laughed. "We'll see."

The Padres prospect pitched five shutout innings for his second win and Peoria scored twice in the fifth inning to beat Scottsdale, 3-2, and clinch a spot in the Arizona Fall League Championship Game.

The Javelinas entered the regular season finale needing a win or a loss by Surprise to clinch the division and advance to face Salt River on Saturday.

"It was exciting," said Erlin, a lefty who spent most of the 2012 season at Double-A. "I tried to take it as any other game, tried to execute one pitch at a time really. My main goal was to keep our team in the game and I had great defense behind me. The defense was awesome behind me the whole time I've been here, so it's really good to win and I'm happy we made it to the championship."

Erlin's probably done pitching in Arizona following his seventh start. The Padres' No. 8 prospect held the Scorpions to a pair of hits for his second win of the fall. He picked off Tyler Holt in the first inning, worked 1-2-3 frames in the second, third and fourth and then struck out the side after allowing a pair of baserunners in the fifth.

The left-hander, acquired by San Diego from Texas in 2011, threw 37 of his 57 pitches for strikes to help Peoria (19-13) win the AFL West Division.

His pickoff of Holt, an Indians prospect who stole 29 bases in 2012, got him back on track in the first.

"I just had a feeling he was going," he said. "It was a good count to go and [Mariners catcher Mike] Zunino threw out the pick sign, so we were on the same page there.

"I threw over and he was going first move. We ended up getting the guy in a rundown, but I was glad to get him off first so I could just focus on getting the out at the plate."

Erlin retired 10 straight batters following the pickoff before working around two baserunners in the fifth.

"I didn't have a great feel for my off-speed pitches in the pregame 'pen or in my first inning, but after that, I kind of got the feeling in the warmups and was able to mix them in," Erlin said. "They hit some balls really hard, but my defense was huge behind me. Obviously that's the reason I was able to get through five innings today, I give credit to the guys behind me."

Scottsdale had its best chance against Erlin in the fifth when Yankees catcher Austin Romine walked and the Giants' Ricky Oropesa followed with a single. Erlin stranded both when he whiffed top Angels prospect Kaleb Cowart, fellow Los Angeles farmhand Randal Grichuk and Cleveland's Carlos Moncrief, all swinging.

"It was cool, I was glad I got out of the inning without giving up any runs," Erlin said. "It was a one-run ballgame, so I was happy to come out with the lead. I think the hitters were able to relax and get things going."

Erlin deflected credit to his teammates, particularly Zunino and Peoria's other catcher, Phillies prospect Tommy Joseph. In seven starts, Erlin went 2-1 with a 2.28 ERA. He struck out 31 and walked six in 23 2/3 innings.

"It's been great, [Zunino] and Tommy both," Erlin said. "I think my first couple outings with both, we weren't on the same page, but as we got more familiar with each other, we are able to move the game along. I would shake off him a little here and there, but my last few starts, we were on the same page. We kept the momentum on our side, so it was really good to get to work with him."

Thursday's win was Erlin's longest outing of the fall -- in Arizona, the emphasis is on getting as many pitchers as possible some time on the mound. Erlin said he wasn't bothered by being limited in his stint with the Javs.

"I didn't think of it like that, I just took the ball when they gave it to me, came out when they took it away from me," he said. "I didn't read too much into the innings limits, I just kinda work on what I work on every outing and tried to go as far as I could go before turning it over."

Zunino, Nate Freiman (Padres) and Zach Collier (Phillies) drove in runs for Peoria before Padres closer Kevin Quackenbush pitched the ninth for his sixth save.

Yankees right-hander Zach Nuding started for Scottsdale and allowed an unearned run on three hits over four innings to suffer his third loss. Cowart homered in the ninth off Quackenbush to make the game close, but Pittsburgh's Gift Ngoepe bounced into a game-ending double play to end Scottsdale's season.

San Diego Padres, Kaleb Cowart, Robbie Erlin, Kevin Quackenbush, Mike Zunino