MILWAUKEE -- This time, James Shields not only kept the opposing pitcher at bay, but the entire opposing team as well.
In his first start since surrendering the Bartolo Colon home run heard 'round the world, Shields worked seven scoreless innings against Jimmy Nelson and the Brewers as the Padres cruised to a 3-0 win on Thursday night at Miller Park. Shields, and relievers Brandon Maurer and Ryan Buchter, combined to extend a scoreless streak for San Diego pitchers to 23 innings.
"Twenty-three scoreless innings on the other side? It's a new story," Padres manager Andy Green said. "Guys are throwing the ball really well. I think [pitching coach] Darren Balsley once again has done a tremendous job with the pitching staff; you see them hitting their stride as we get deeper in the season. See Shields stepping up and matching [Drew] Pomeranz. I feel good about the way our guys are throwing the baseball.
We've got to feed off each other, the starters," Shields said. "Our main goal is to save the bullpen; we've got to go as deep as we can in the game. Watching Drew out there yesterday, and the way Colin battled the game before that ... overall, we've been pitching pretty well, but we need to keep feeding off each other."
Melvin Upton Jr. homered, drove in two runs and scored twice to back Shields, who navigated around seven hits and a walk by inducing three double plays and setting a season high with nine strikeouts -- his highest total since May 19 of last season.
For the Brewers, Ryan Braun singled in the fourth inning to extend his hitting streak to 12 games, but he missed opportunities with runners in scoring position in the sixth and the eighth. A hit in either of those situations could have spared Nelson a tough-luck loss after the right-hander pitched eight innings on 93 pitches, giving up two runs on five hits. Nelson struck out five and walked one.
"That's probably our best start of the year by someone," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Upton goes deep: Upton had a hand in all three runs, including blasting his fourth homer of the season in the ninth. The left fielder drove in the first run of the game with a two-out RBI single in the fourth, and he doubled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Alexei Ramirez in the seventh. Facing Brewers reliever Tyler Thornburg in the ninth, Upton connected on a 95-mph fastball for a blast that traveled 402 feet from the plate and left the bat at 98 mph, according to Statcast™. More >
"I was just trying to get a good pitch to hit," Upton said. "It was a grind, but I was able to put the barrel on the ball and some good things happened."
Battling Braun: Shields faced red-hot Braun twice with a runner on third and fewer than two outs. In the first inning, Braun ground out weakly to shortstop on a changeup, forcing Domingo Santana to hold at third base. With the potential tying run on third base in the sixth, Shields threw three consecutive changeups to jump ahead, 1-2. Braun then fouled off two fastballs and took a changeup for a ball before grounding into an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play on a changeup. More >
"He's pretty hot this year, he's a good hitter," Shields said. "That ground ball in the sixth inning was huge. I was just trying to mix up my pitches, threw him a couple of changeups down and in that he swung and missed on. Got him to roll over, so it was big."
Battling Braun, again: Braun had another chance in the eighth against Maurer, who issued a two-out walk to Scooter Gennett to put the potential tying run on base. Braun fouled a 1-0 fastball straight back, took another fastball for Strike 2, then hit a routine grounder to the left side of the infield for an inning-ending fielder's choice.
"We had the right guy up there in our scoring opportunities, and it just didn't play tonight," Counsell said. "We had the right guy up there, for sure."
Picking it: Nelson got a hand on the way to his team-high fifth quality start from third baseman Aaron Hill, who made a pair of highlight-reel defensive plays. In the third inning, Hill dove to his left to take away a hit on Jon Jay's sharp grounder. In the fourth with a man aboard, Hill made a tricky catch of Brett Wallace's popup along the left-field line, helping to limit the Padres to one run in the inning.
"Out of curiosity, I went and [looked at Shields' numbers], and I was pretty shocked. I think it's nine or 10 years he's thrown over 200 innings. That's pretty impressive. You think something crazy would happen one year where you would miss a few starts, but no. He's been that benchmark of consistency." -- Nelson, on Shields
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
By defeating the Brewers in his first career start against them on Thursday, Shields now has wins over 26 of the 30 teams in the Major Leagues. The veteran right-hander has not defeated Cincinnati (two career starts), Pittsburgh (three starts), St. Louis (two starts) and Washington (three starts).
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Padres manager Andy Green successfully challenged a play at first base in the top of the fifth inning. Alexei Ramirez hit a slow roller to second baseman Gennett, who charged and made a barehanded pickup. First-base umpire Laz Diaz ruled Ramirez out, but the call was overturned after a 43-second review.
Padres catcher Derek Norris left the game prior to the bottom of the second inning with a left hand contusion. Norris was hit in the left hand by a 95-mph fastball from Nelson in the top of the second inning and remained in the game as a runner. Christian Bethancourt replaced Norris behind the plate and went 0-for-3. X-rays on Norris' left hand came back negative. More >
WHAT'S NEXT Padres: Left-hander Christian Friedrich will be recalled to make the start in Friday's rematch against the Brewers at 5:10 p.m. PT. Signed as a free agent in early March, Friedrich went 0-4 with a 5.25 ERA in 68 relief appearances for Colorado last season. His last Major League start came on July 1, 2014.
Brewers: Technically, Junior Guerra is still seeking his first quality start as he takes the mound for Friday's game against the Padres at 7:10 p.m. CT. But by working six innings in each of his first two outings, both Brewers victories, Guerra has helped stabilize a starting rotation that ranks at the bottom of baseball in most major categories. This will be his second start at Miller Park.