SAN DIEGO -- As Dinelson Lamet walked off the mound after each of his six innings Friday night, Clayton Kershaw made his way to it, yet the Padres' rookie right-hander did not overreact to the moment.The left-handed National League Cy Young Award winner was slightly better than Lamet in a
SAN DIEGO -- As Dinelson Lamet walked off the mound after each of his six innings Friday night, Clayton Kershaw made his way to it, yet the Padres' rookie right-hander did not overreact to the moment.
The left-handed National League Cy Young Award winner was slightly better than Lamet in a 1-0 loss to the Dodgers. But in a start against the best team and best pitcher in baseball, Lamet was not intimidated, striking out 10 in a continuation of his recent success.
"It was a pleasure to face him, and it definitely motivated me," Lamet said through a team interpreter. "I knew I was going to have to give my best effort, and I knew he was going to make pitches, so I had to do the same."
After producing a 6.40 ERA across his first nine starts, Lamet has turned his sterling two-pitch mix into strong results. In eight outings since late July, Lamet's slider and fastball have pushed him to a 2.49 ERA.
Even as Lamet challenged a team with 11 more victories than any other club, Padres manager Andy Green saw the same pitcher who dominated the lowly Giants and Phillies in recent weeks.
"He looked poised," Green said. "He looked no different than usual. … To see somebody square off against Clayton Kershaw and for the most part match him, you can't ask for anything more from him."
Friday's duel lasted only six frames. Kershaw, in his first start off the disabled list, was held to 70 pitches. Lamet needed 107 to last as long, the result of the Dodgers fighting off pitch after pitch.
He retired three of the first four Dodgers he faced with strikeouts, managing to pitch around a pair of walks in the second. Through three innings, the only hit Lamet allowed came on a chopped grounder third baseman Cory Spangenberg couldn't barehand into an out.
"His stuff is electric," Spangenberg said. "When he's on, he's got the stuff to be a very, very good pitcher in this game."
He struck out side in the fourth, and when Kershaw matched his feat in the bottom of the frame, Lamet simply did it once more in the fifth, again maneuvering past two baserunners.
The traffic caught up to him in the sixth. Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger began the inning with singles. Lamet was one out from escaping, but on a night he had much success getting a third strike, he couldn't do so with Chase Utley. Down 1-2, Utley fouled off a pair of pitches before shooting a third Lamet offering up the middle for an RBI single.
As his rookie campaign nears an end, Lamet's biggest goal is staying healthy. Green would like to see him issue fewer walks, of which there were three Friday.
What that means for Lamet's future, and that of the Padres, provides Green with optimism.
"There's still more in him," Green said, "and it's exciting to know that."
Nathan Ruiz is a reporter for MLB.com based in San Diego.