One thing Austin Hedges has learned in his brief Texas League tenure is how much more consistent Double-A pitchers are when it comes to hitting spots. But even in his relatively new environment, he knows just how impressive batterymate Matt Wisler has been recently.
Hedges -- the Padres' No. 2 prospect -- drove in the only run and Wisler struck out six over 6 2/3 innings Tuesday night as San Antonio beat Arkansas, 1-0, in Game 1 of the best-of-5 Championship Series.
"He's outstanding," Hedges said of Wisler. "That guy, every time he's on the mound he gives us a great opportunity to win. He puts the fastball where he wants and he has one of the best sliders I've ever seen. He was able to pitch with all his stuff today. He had great command. He just did what Matt Wisler does today."
Wisler (1-0), San Diego's fifth-ranked prospect, allowed three hits and three walks in his second postseason start. In his first, he limited first-round foe Corpus Christi to a run on two hits over 6 1/3 innings.
Thanks to an expanded pitch count, Tuesday's outing was Wisler's longest since he pitched seven innings in his third Double-A start on May 23 -- another 1-0 win over Arkansas. The right-hander, who turns 21 on Thursday, compiled a 3.00 ERA in 20 Texas League starts, including a 1.86 ERA and a 37-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in six August outings.
"He has four great pitches," Hedges said, alluding to Wisler's fastball, slider, curveball and changeup. "He has confidence and I have confidence in him to be able to throw any of those four pitches in any count. He did that today. He worked effectively. When he does that, he's extremely hard to hit."
Hedges produced the game's lone run in the second. After Yeison Asencio belted a two-out double, he hit a grounder up the middle for a single and Asencio just beat center fielder Travis Witherspoon's throw to the plate.
Even before the Padres selected him in the second round of the 2011 Draft, Hedges has received rave reviews for his defensive work. While evaluators say he has the arm strength, fundamentals and intangibles to become an elite defender, some have voiced concerns about how well he'll hit in the Majors.
Hedges began the season with Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore, where he batted .270 with a .768 OPS in the hitter-friendly California League. The Padres promoted him in early August to San Antonio, where he struggled in his initial Double-A experience, finishing with a .224 average and .566 OPS.
"The pitchers [in Double-A] are definitely more consistent," Hedges said. "A lot of guys can throw off-speed in any count for strikes or to waste a pitch and try to get you to swing. That was definitely a big adjustment for me.
"I definitely have to work on that in the offseason. I have to start taking into account more the off-speed in certain counts rather than just sitting on the fastball and adjusting to a slider or something."
Arkansas starter Brandon Hynick went the distance, retiring the final 17 batters he faced. The 28-year-old right-hander gave up a run on four hits and a walk while striking out eight.
San Antonio, which had seven 1-0 wins during the regular season, hosts Game 2 on Wednesday night.