Padres' move for Kelley continues to pay off

Reliever strikes out side in seventh, helps bridge gap to closer Kimbrel

Padres' move for Kelley continues to pay off

SAN DIEGO -- Though picking apart the many moves of Padres general manager A.J. Preller has become a popular endeavor for some, the acquisition of relief pitcher Shawn Kelley might come close to rating beyond reproach as any deal.

Kelley continues to pay big dividends out of the bullpen for the Padres, as he did in Wednesday's 3-2 win over the Braves when he struck out the side in the seventh inning, helping bridge a gap to closer Craig Kimbrel.

Facing his former team, Kimbrel pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his 35th save, helping the Padres complete a three-game sweep of the Braves heading into the team's off-day Thursday.

Kimbrel closes the door

Using the fastball-slider combination that's worked well for him, Kelley struck out Andrelton Simmons, walked Ryan Lavarnway and finished off both Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn on strikeouts to hold a 3-1 lead.

"I was trying to pitch to my strengths, really," Kelley said after the game. "... I stayed down and away from those guys and didn't give them anything good to hit. I didn't like the walk. But I got it locked back in."

In doing so, Kelley lowered his ERA to 2.70 in 42 games this season. Even better, he has a 0.48 ERA since June 30 to go with 25 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings in that blissful stretch.

"He's been very good. He's really been consistent," said Padres interim manager Pat Murphy. "I think he's very underrated. Kelley's been an unsung hero."

Kelley, who was acquired in December from the Yankees for Minor League pitcher Johnny Barbato, got off to a rough start in April and needed a short disabled list stint in the opening month for a strained left calf.

Since returning, he's been very good -- and consistent, and reliable.

"I've had some stretches [before] in my career, but I feel like I've been pitching like myself and like I'm capable of," Kelley said. "I'm executing my slider and using my fastball when I have to. I've felt healthy and I've felt strong ever since I've come off the DL."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.