SAN DIEGO, CA - AUGUST 27: Casey Kelly #49 of the San Diego Padres pitches during the third inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves at Petco Park on August 27, 2012 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
To spend a day in the Major Leagues is an amazing accomplishment.
To make your MLB debut on the mound against the Atlanta Braves and a future Hall of Famer like Chipper Jones is something to tell your grandchildren about.
To win that debut by throwing 6 shutout innings can electrify an entire fan base.
Casey Kelly did all three of those things on Monday night at PETCO Park. Kelly, at 22 years old one of the most highly-regarded pitching prospects in baseball, got the start against the Braves. He threw 6 shutout innings, allowing just 3 hits and striking out 4, to help the Padres to a 3-0 win, their season-high 8th straight win overall.
"I had to keep the streak alive," said Kelly, who threw 87 pitches. "I didn't want to be the guy to break the streak or I might get sent down."
Kelly's start is even more impressive when you look at the Braves lineup. Six of the nine guys have played in an All-Star Game (Chipper Jones, Michael Bourn, Dan Uggla, Martin Prado, Jason Heyward, Brian McCann). Yasmani Grandal was behind the plate, and liked what he saw Kelly doing to Atlanta's lineup.
"They looked uncomfortable up there," said Grandal, who drove in all 3 Padres runs with a 2-run home run and an RBI single. "That's one of the things you've gotta do when you're a rookie, especially when you're pitching. Guys see fresh meat on the mound and they're gonna go swing, so (Casey) did a great job."
It's amazing hear both Kelly and Grandal talk, then think they're 22 and 23 years old, respectively. In baseball terms, both are mature beyond their years. Kelly said he was able to keep his nerves and adrenaline in check. Well, for the most part, at least.
"They weren't too bad until I got out to the field," said Kelly. "Once I got out to the field, and just looking at the stadium and all the fans, the opposing team, I got some butterflies."
So, Kelly got his first big league win in his first big league start. Might as well throw another first in there, too. In the 5th inning the former shortstop hit a line drive up the middle off Braves starter Paul Maholm for his first big league base hit.
"I was more excited about the hit than anything else. I just closed my eyes and swung."
As if the night was not special enough, Casey's family, including his father, was in the stands at PETCO Park to watch. Pat Kelly is a former professional catcher who played in one MLB game before becoming a successful minor league manager. Pat is currently managing the Billings Mustangs in the Reds organization. Amazingly, they had a day off on the day his son Casey made his MLB debut.
"Them having an off day on the same day I'm pitching," said Casey, "that just doesn't happen in baseball. So, it's special he got to be here to see it."
Just when you think this story can't get any better, there's this little nugget.
Monday was also Pat Kelly's birthday.
What a debut. What a gift.