Renfroe shows patience vs. Kershaw

Renfroe shows patience vs. Kershaw

SAN DIEGO -- A strange thing happened Saturday night when Clayton Kershaw, one of the baseball's most precise pitchers, faced Hunter Renfroe, one of the game's freest swingers.

Renfroe walked. Then he walked again.

Baseball can be a funny game sometimes. In Saturday's 10-2 loss to the Dodgers, Renfroe -- who entered the game with a .218 on-base percentage and just two walks in 119 plate appearances -- singled and drew a pair of free passes against the best pitcher of his generation.

"The best at-bats of the year, without question," said Padres manager Andy Green. "Couldn't be more pleased with what he did today."

Could Saturday's performance mark the turning point for the rookie slugger? The Padres certainly hope so.

To his credit, Renfroe has diagnosed his struggles with plate discipline and is working hard to improve it.

"They're really not throwing me many strikes," Renfroe said. "Me, being the aggressive hitter I am, I want to make things happen, obviously. That's throwing me off of my game. When they throw pitches to me, usually I'm freaking all on it, crushing balls left and right. But ... they're not really throwing to me.

"That's where I usually have trouble. As long as I can just do what I need to do, taking pitches, swinging at the right pitches, pitches I can drive, I'll be fine."

Renfroe came to the plate in the game's decisive moment with two outs and the bases loaded in the eighth. He worked the count full against Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen before watching strike three at his knees.

Jansen escapes bases-loaded jam

Green, however, put that strikeout in a different category than the four futile punchouts Renfroe had in Friday's loss.

"That's a good battle at-bat," Green said. "[Jansen] lives at the top of the strike zone. He's laying off some of those pitches up there, then he dots the bottom of the strike zone for strike three. That's a tough strike three, bases loaded. But it's a strike three you're going to see on a lot of really good hitters. Those are the OK kinds of punchouts."

Coming through the Padres' system, Renfroe's power bordered on legendary. He showed it off instantly upon his arrival, launching a prodigious blast onto the roof of the Western Metal Building against the Dodgers last September.

No one ever questioned Renfroe's pop. It was the 6 percent walk rate throughout his four seasons in the Minors that concerned the Padres.

"I have zero doubt, long term, the power's going to be there, the hits are going to be there," Green said. "If he does what he did today, stays inside the strike zone, there's going to be a lot of really good things out of him."

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.