Thursday, April 26, 2012

Volquez, Kotsay deliver

This blog gets a slice of the credit for Edinson Volquez walking only one hitter tonight, as Volquez remembers the free advice given him after his walk-filled loss on Opening Day.

"Yeah, you told me to throw it over the middle of the plate here," Volquez said tonight after pitching the Padres toward the 2-1 victory over the Swamp Gnats. Laughing, he said that approach didn't work on one pitch tonight -- the fastball that Jayson Werth hit over the left-center wall -- but I reminded him it was the only run he gave up in seven innings.

"The ball kind of dies here," said Volquez, and he'll have to hope the would-be fence-mover, Garfinkel, doesn't read this blog.

Following my lead, Padres manager Bud Black told Volquez he'll "win a lot of games" if he continues to attack as he did tonight.

The bigger story was that pitching coach Darren Balsley had reason to be giddy about something other than his Steelers drafting Stanford guard David DeCastro earlier this evening.

Doing more to earn his paycheck than the lucky Steelers did when DeCastro fell to them, Balsley tweaked Volquez's delivery in a bullpen session a few days ago.

Volzquez was the first to mention tonight that Balsley helped him out. It was the first time in the pitcher's career that he shortened his stride. He said it led to his most accurate outing in five this season.

"You can put the ball anywhere you want," he said.

Balsley said he'd been itching to shave the stride since spring training but wanted to give the righty some time. Balsley decided to make the change after Volquez walked three Phillies at Petco National Park last Friday, raising his walk total to 15 in 23 innings this season.

"He's very coachable," Balsley said. "He's very receptive to everything. He worked extremely hard on it."

Volquez said he shortened the stride by five inches, but Balsley said it was only an inch or two. "He thinks it longer because it feels like that much when you're an athlete making a change," Balsley said.

Volquez gave up three hits in the seven innings and struck out seven. Against a pitcher whose batting average allowed is .206, the Nationals were in trouble once Volquez denied them walks.

"I am so happy to see myself pitch like that," he said.

Without Mark Kotsay hitting a go-ahead double into Death Valley, the Nationals may have had their first sweep at Petco. The Padres were down 1-0 with five outs to burn when Kotsay belted Tyler Clippard's fourth pitch to him, all of them fastballs, to bring home Orlando Hudson and Cameron Maybin.

Kotsay said it helped him that he batted against a fellow lefty on Wednesday, because it reminded him to keep his front shoulder tucked in. Also of assistance was his 12-pitch duel against the righty Clippard on Tuesday. Clippard got him out, and Kotsay was still angry a day later over the fastball  he missed early in the count, even though the lengthy at-bat acquainted him with Clippard's release point and repertoire.

Lo and behold, Clipperd gave him the same fastball tonight that Kotsay missed two nights ago. Kotsay scorched it.

"You learn from your failure in order to have success," Kotsay said.

The Padres (6-14) may be headed to better times if that's true.

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