Richard making a living with ground-ball outs

Richard making a living with ground-ball outs

ATLANTA -- For the better part of six innings Saturday, Clayton Richard did what he does best: He got the Braves to hit into outs on the ground -- 14 times, to be exact.

That run of ground balls was briefly interrupted in the sixth inning, when Atlanta's Brandon Phillips and Adonis Garcia lifted consecutive flyballs. Both left the yard -- and they proved to be the difference in a 4-2 loss, the Padres' sixth straight against Atlanta.

In terms of batted balls, Richard put forth one of the strangest pitching lines you'll see. He recorded 14 ground outs and not a single flyout, while allowing two home runs.

"I was ... just keeping it down," said Richard, who allowed four runs over six innings. "Even the guys that got me, it was more so just falling behind that hurt. It was kind of disappointing to feel good like that, and come away with those results."

From the time Richard signed with the Padres last August, no pitcher in baseball has induced ground balls at a higher clip. He posted a 64 percent ground-ball rate during the second half last season, leading the Major Leagues.

That number has gone up this year. Through three starts, Richard has induced 36 ground outs (including five double plays), to just four flyouts.

So what makes his sinker -- the pitch that has rejuvenated his career -- so tough to hit?

"It's just late [movement]," Padres catcher Austin Hedges said. "You don't really see it. He lives at the bottom of the zone, and it's got late movement downward. Guys catch the top half of the ball, and just beat it into the ground."

Of course, Phillips was the first Brave to get under it. And he made it count.

"It was a great pitch," Hedges said. "It was a good swing. You just tip your cap to Phillips there. Good job on his part. Clayton was outstanding today. That's a pitch that if he throws it nine times out of 10, we're going to get a ground ball."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.