OAKLAND, Calif. — With an intimate group of family and friends on hand at the O.Co Coliseum on Tuesday night, Curtis Partch got the call from the bullpen for the Cincinnati Reds.
The former Merced High and Merced College right-hander entered the game with the Oakland A's already staked to a 7-1 lead. He was brought on to be a stop gap for the Reds and did just that, tossing a pair of shutout innings to the delight of his hometown fans in the crowd.
Partch allowed no hits and struck out one, giving the Cincinnati offense a chance to get back into the ballgame.
"It was pretty exciting having my family and friends there," Partch said before Wednesday's game. "It was nice I was able to get out there and pitch with them here.
"I don't know if I was feeling anything extra pitching close to home. I still get pretty pumped up every time I pitch in a major league game."
Partch has made six relief appearances with the Reds since being called up from Triple A Louisville on June 8. He has a 5.23 ERA almost entirely from one rough outing against the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 21 and has nine strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings pitched.
Like most rookies, Partch's four months in the big leagues has been full of ups and downs, including surrendering a grand slam to the first major league batter he ever faced.
Reds manager Dusty Baker wasted no time seeing what his 6-foot-5, 240-pound right-hander could do, inserting him into a bases loaded situation against perennial All-Star Matt Holliday. Things started well for Partch, as his 95-mile an hour fastball got him ahead in the count. He went for the strikeout, but hung a slider over the heart of the plate that Holliday quickly deposited into the left-field seats.
"I was definitely in attack mode," Partch said. "I wanted to go get him. Just left a ball up in the middle of the zone. These guys don't miss mistakes up here.
"I might have been a little too juiced up in my first game."
Partch bounced right back, getting Allen Craig to groundout to end the inning. That sparked a run of six straight scoreless innings. Included in that was his best outing to date, four shutout innings against the Chicago Cubs on June 13. Partch allowed one hit, walked none and struck out four.
Being able to maintain that success is his biggest focus right now. Hitters have already proven themselves a little more patient in the major leagues as he's surrendered eight walks in his 10-plus innings. Tuesday's outing against the A's was a perfect example, with Partch forced to throw 40 pitches in his two innings of work.
"I'm just working on going out and being consistent," Partch said. "Obviously everyone has always said I have the stuff to pitch up here, it's just about having the confidence to go out and do it.
"I'm just working on getting better and keeping my mechanics consistent."
It's not clear how long Partch may be with Cincinnati. He was called up to replace a struggling Logan Ondrusek, so it appears that as long as he produces, the job is his. After six year in the minor leagues, he's just enjoying the moment.
"It's been great so far," Partch said. "You hear stories from guys that have been up, but it's really been everything I hoped it would be.
"It's great being a part of such a good team. Having guys like Jay Bruce and Joey Votto around, and all the great pitchers we have, I'm learning something every day."