Nick Hundley may be struggling at the plate, but his true value is in his game management behind the plate.
By THE SPORTS XCHANGEFS San Diego
Nick Hundley continues to struggle at the plate, San Diego Padres left-handed starter Clayton Richard says his importance behind the plate cannot be measured in hits.
"Nick did the best job handling me today since we've been together," Richard said Sunday after shutting out the Oakland A's on five hits and two walks over 7 2/3 innings in a 2-1 Padres victory.
"Nick took the pressure off. I threw it where Nick called it. Give him credit."
Hundley has been under fire of late as his season-long batting slump takes on epidemic proportions.
Hundley was 0-for-4 again Sunday in Oakland with three strikeouts. He is 3-for-32 (.094) in his latest drought and his season batting average is down to .164 with 43 strikeouts in 171 at-bats.
"Nick is incredibly important to what I do," Richard said. "I can't stress that enough. It's so important to have the catcher in tune with what you want to do. With Nick, pitchers have someone they can trust mentally.
"I equate catching to offensive linemen in football," continued the former University of Michigan quarterback. "They make plays work. For some reason, that skill gets lost in baseball. Nick was always on top of what I wanted to throw and where I wanted to go with it today."
Meanwhile, Padres manager Bud Black praised Richard: "Player of the game," Black said of Richard, who is 3-2 with a 2.66 ERA over his last seven starts. He picked up two wins on the trip, holding the Mariners to one run on eight hits over seven innings in Seattle last Tuesday.
"He threw a great game," Black said. "It's all about setting the tone early as a starting pitcher ... all about throwing fastballs in good spots. He set the tone from the first inning on. Fastballs down. Fastballs up in the right situations."
Hundley said, "It was a combination of us knowing what Clayton wanted to throw and his executing the plan. Almost every pitch he made was right where we wanted it. It's a great feeling to click like that."