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Asuaje provides spark in win over D-backs

Padres second baseman scores twice, logs RBI single
July 5, 2018

PHOENIX -- When Carlos Asuaje earned his callup to the Padres earlier this week, manager Andy Green indicated his performance would dictate his playing time.Sure seems like Asuaje is going to keep playing.The second-year second baseman has been on a tear all week, having reached base in nine of his

PHOENIX -- When Carlos Asuaje earned his callup to the Padres earlier this week, manager Andy Green indicated his performance would dictate his playing time.
Sure seems like Asuaje is going to keep playing.
The second-year second baseman has been on a tear all week, having reached base in nine of his 11 plate appearances. On Thursday night, Asuaje reached all four times, sparking a much-needed offensive breakout and a 6-3 victory over the D-backs at Chase Field.
"I just feel comfortable at the plate now," Asuaje said. "Ultimately, I'm just here to help the team win games. Whether it's as a role player or starting, I'm not too concerned with that."
Asuaje tripled and scored in the first inning. He walked in his next two at-bats, including a sixth-inning free pass that came after an 11-pitch battle with D-backs starter Shelby Miller.
William Myers followed with a stand-up triple, plating Asuaje, and the flood-gates opened. Two more runs scored in the frame -- on an error by D-backs shortstop Nick Ahmed and an RBI single from Freddy Galvis.

"That wears a pitcher down when you're throwing good pitch after good pitch after good pitch, and you can't end an at-bat," Green said. "... That sets the tone for the whole inning."
The offensive outburst made a winner out of Eric Lauer, who pitched five innings of one-run ball. The rookie left-hander navigated a tricky D-backs lineup loaded with right-handed bats. He allowed seven hits, but just one run.
"We had some opportunities," manager Torey Lovullo said. "I just felt like when runners got on base, he got a little bit tougher."

In the seventh, Asuaje tacked on an RBI single to put the Padres on top by five. It was the 27th pitch he saw on Thursday night. None resulted in an out.
Plate discipline has always been Asuaje's defining offensive characteristic, and it's never been better than it was on Thursday. Asuaje, who batted second and filled that role perfectly, is certainly making a case for further playing time at second base.
"It's pretty fun hitting behind him right now," said Myers, who went 2-for-4, driving in Asuaje with both hits.
Padres left-hander Matt Strahm worked 2 2/3 effective innings of relief, despite allowing a two-run homer to Ketel Marte. Brad Hand slammed the door in the ninth for his 24th save, dropping the D-backs into a tie with the Dodgers atop the National League West.
Austin power: Padres catcher Austin Hedges missed eight weeks with tendinitis in his right elbow earlier this year. He's spent the rest of the season mired in an ugly slump at the plate and he hadn't homered since April 10, until Hedges put a charge into a 2-0 fastball from Miller and sent it into the left-field seats. It served as a reminder of the power potential within Hedges, who went deep 18 times last season. It also gave the Padres a 2-1 lead in the fifth.

Hand it to him: Hand found himself (and potentially his trade value) in a bit of a rut, having allowed runs in four of his last six games. He made that stretch look like ancient history on Thursday night. Hand's trademark slider was filthy as ever, as he struck out Jonathan Jay and Ahmed for the first two outs of the inning. Then, he blew a 97-mph fastball by Paul Goldschmidt to end the ballgame.

For most of the season, Lauer had gotten by with a hybrid slider/cutter as his primary offspeed offering. Now, they're two distinct pitches. The change began to take shape during his recent bullpen sessions, and he finally put it into action on Thursday.
Lauer unveiled a new grip for his slider, and the pitch now has noticeably more depth. His cutter, meanwhile, has seen a small uptick in velocity. He showed it off in the fifth inning when he found himself in a first-and-third jam with Goldschmidt at the plate. Lauer dialed up a 90-mph cutter and blew it by Goldschmidt on the inside corner.

"I was definitely amped up a little bit," Lauer said. "I wanted that strikeout. It was a big situation, and I got it in the right spot."
Another game, another pickoff for Lauer. With one out in the fifth, the rookie southpaw put himself in some trouble when he walked Miller. Moments later, Miller was toast at first base -- the latest victim of Lauer's other-worldly pickoff move.

Lauer has picked eight runners this season, easily the most in the Majors. He's five shy of Bob Shirley's franchise record in 1977. Lauer's move features the perfect mix of speed and deception.
"It wears down a pitcher to the point where he might make a mistake or two over the middle of the plate. It doesn't mean you're going to get a good pitch to hit. But it wears him down where the mistakes might be there a little more often." -- Myers, on Asuaje's 11-pitch plate appearance in the sixth
Padres left-hander Joey Lucchesi will square off against D-backs right-hander Zack Godley at 6:40 p.m. PT on Friday at Chase Field. Lucchesi returned from the disabled list two weeks ago, but the Padres have yet to take the reins off. He's been limited in each of his first three starts back from his right-hip strain, but he won't be on Friday night.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.