Maurer stakes claim on 'pivotal' 7th inning

Padres reliever scoreless in 11 straight appearances

Maurer stakes claim on 'pivotal' 7th inning

ANAHEIM -- Nothing at all against the first six innings of a game or even the last two, but Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley said the seventh inning rates highly in his eyes.

"I think it's one of the most pivotal innings in baseball … especially when you have the lead," Balsley said.

To that end, the Padres feel like they've found their seventh-inning guy, Brandon Maurer, who hasn't allowed a run in his last 11 outings, spanning 10 innings.

The seventh inning is considered an important bridge between the starter and the eighth-inning specialist, who, in an ideal situation, hands the ball to the closer.

Maurer, acquired in December from the Mariners for outfielder Seth Smith, has allowed four hits in his last 11 games, dating back to May 2. He's two walks and has seven strikeouts during that stretch as well.

Better still, Balsley said, is how efficient Maurer has been in this blissful stretch.

"The thing I like about Maurer is he's doing it with a low pitch count," Balsley said. "His innings are going pretty quickly. He's not wasting very many pitches."

In five of his 10 appearances, Maurer has thrown nine or fewer pitches on five occasions -- and all but one of those outings have covered one inning.

In Friday's 2-1 loss to the Dodgers, Maurer needed just eight pitches to get three outs before he turned the ball over to Joaquin Benoit. It was Benoit who allowed a home run to Joc Pederson, the eventual game-winner.

"He's doing a really good job," said Padres manager Bud Black. "With each successful outing he gains that confidence. This guy has good stuff; fastball, slider, changeup. I think he found early Major League niche in the bullpen with the Mariners. We've continued that role here. This guy has a good arm and pitches,"

Balsley said the sky is the limit for Maurer.

"He's got his feet under him now. He's confident now and has gotten a lot of big outs for us in the seventh inning. And he has all the pitches to pitch in the seventh," Balsley said. "The intangibles are coming, he's starting to get ahead in the count, he's highly confident."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.