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ATL@SD: Kelly blanks Braves over six in MLB debut

SAN DIEGO -- Casey Kelly was everything the Padres and their fans could have hoped for out of their top-rated prospect in a standout Major League debut that propelled San Diego to its eighth straight victory in a 3-0 win over the Braves on Monday night.

"Just showing up to the park and seeing my jersey in my locker and knowing that I was pitching tonight -- it's just an unbelievable feeling and a dream come true," Kelly said.

The 22-year-old Kelly twirled six innings in which he scattered just three hits and struck out four. He permitted just two Braves to reach second base, and no one after the second inning.

"He showed me three pitches," Padres manager Bud Black said. "Good poise, threw strikes, ball/strike ratio was good. All in all, a good outing."

"It was perfect," catcher Yasmani Grandal said. "He was spotting fastballs, throwing curveballs for strikes, throwing changeups for strikes. ... He's a three-pitch guy."

As Kelly lived up to his billing on the rubber, he exceeded expectations at the plate. After an inauspicious three-pitch strikeout in his first Major League at-bat, Kelly recovered to smack a ground-ball single up the middle and collect his first hit.

"I think I was more excited about the hit than anything else," Kelly said. "I just closed my eyes and swung."

And while that hit was certainly a milestone for Kelly, who was given both that ball and the one that caught Paul Janish looking with his first career strikeout, the hits that mattered Monday came predominantly from Grandal, who drove in all three San Diego runs.

The rookie backstop, who was catching Kelly in Tucson prior to being called up June 1, gave the Padres a 2-0 lead with a second-inning laser to left, a two-run homer, his sixth of the year. He then added an insurance run in the eighth with an RBI single that brought home Chase Headley.

Grandal was one of three Padres with two-hit days, along with Logan Forsythe and Jesus Guzman. All told, San Diego had nine hits in the game, eight of them off Braves starter Paul Maholm, who was a tough-luck loser after 6 2/3 innings that were unblemished outside the Grandal shot.

What Kelly started, the Padres bullpen finished. Tommy Layne worked a perfect seventh, extending his scoreless streak to 6 1/3 innings. Layne has yet to give up a run since being called up to the big leagues on Aug. 14, and has retired 20 of the 22 hitters he's faced in that span.

After Dale Thayer worked a scoreless eighth in his first outing back from paternity leave, Luke Gregerson put up a zero in the ninth. That extended his own scoreless streak to 23 innings and marked the second save of the season for Gregerson, who has not allowed a run since July 4.

But the story of the day was Kelly, whose family was in the stands thanks to an improbable scheduling situation that permitted his father, Pat, a former big league catcher and current manager of the Reds' Rookie League affiliate in Billings, Mont., to make the trip to San Diego on a fortuitously scheduled off-day.

What Pat saw was an outing that was in keeping with the stellar starting pitching that has backed the Padres during this stretch. His son's six scoreless innings lowered the ERA of San Diego starters during the eight-game win streak to 1.67 (10 earned runs in 54 innings), and represented the team's seventh quality start in that stretch. Kelly's start also came against an experienced Braves lineup that dominated the Padres just over a week ago in Atlanta.

"He made his pitches and hit his spots," Atlanta second baseman Dan Uggla said. "He didn't really leave anything out over the middle of the plate and got the outs when he needed to on the pitches he wanted us to swing at."

"[The Braves] looked uncomfortable," Grandal said. "That's one of the things you have to do when you're a rookie, especially pitching -- make guys uncomfortable. They see fresh meat on the mound and they're going to come out swinging, so he did a great job."

"I couldn't imagine anything else," Kelly said. "I would have been happy with anything, but to come out with the win it's just unreal."

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