The San Diego Padres capped off a series sweep of the playoff contending San Francisco Giants on the final Military Sunday of the season with an 8-2 rout that included starting pitcher Ian Kennedy reaching 200 strikeouts for the first time in his career.
Kennedy is only the fourth pitcher in Padres history to accomplish the feat: joining Kevin Brown, Clay Kirby and Jake Peavy, who was the most recent Padre to reach 200 with a 240 strikeout season during his Cy Young winning campaign in 2007.
“Being in company with those guys, it’s an honor,” said Kennedy, who is now sporting an ERA of 3.76.
This spectacular pitching accomplishment signifies the revitalization of Kennedy’s career that was spiraling down in Arizona ever since 2011 in which he won 21 games and a 2.88 ERA.
When the Padres acquired Kennedy in a trade for Joe Thatcher, he had a 5.23 ERA and the Diamondbacks were falling out of postseason contention when the flaws of their gritty culture finally caught up to them in the second half of the season. Playing in his native Southern California has once again brighten up his career.
The fastball is the vital to any pitching success. Despite only being able to reach as high as 94 mph, Kennedy has successfully been able to blur the lines between a 90-94 mph fastball and an 86 mph slider.
“I cleaned up some of my mechanics,” said Kennedy, who was having a career-worst season with Arizona when the Padres acquired him last July. “Getting ahead of guys. Getting on top of my fastball again. It helps with deception, with everything.”
“What’s been, for me, impressive is the consistency of his stuff from April through September,” Padres manager Bud Black said. “His stuff has been good all year.”
As a pitcher, striking out a Major League batter is the toughest thing to do in baseball. Even though batting .300 means getting out seven out of 10 times, hitters make contact with a pitch more often than not. To make a hitter fail to make contact with a pitch for a three strike is a trait that his highly valued in this league, even if there is a certain randomness about it.
“It’s one of those goals that you can’t really control,” Kennedy said. ”You try to execute and make pitches. I can just say thanks to (catchers) Rene (Rivera) and Yasmani (Grandal) and (pitching coach Darren) Balsley for calling such great games.”
With the rise of Tyson Ross and Odrisamer Despaigne to go with Kennedy and Andrew Cashner, The Padres can come into 2015 with one of the top starting rotations in the National League.