SEATTLE -- Coming eight outs shy of the Padres’ first no-hitter in franchise history was impressive, but it was the way Dinelson Lamet overcame a shaky beginning to finish with seven scoreless innings that left the Padres most encouraged.
Lamet earned his first win since Aug. 15, 2017, while leading San Diego to a 9-4 decision over the Mariners on Tuesday at T-Mobile Park. He tied a career high with 12 strikeouts while throwing 104 pitches, 16 more than his season high. Most notably, Lamet overcame four walks the first time through to retire 13 in a row and put Seattle on a scare of becoming possibly the first team in MLB history to be no-hit three times in a season.
“It’s the way that I was able to get that win,” Lamet said through an interpreter. “That’s what makes me most proud.”
When Lamet gave up his first hit to Omar Narvez, there was no reliever warming in the Padres’ bullpen -- a sign of the strength he’s built and the progress he’s made in six starts since returning from Tommy John surgery nearly 16 months ago. Padres manager Andy Green allowed Lamet to finish the seventh, even after he gave up another single to Kyle Seager.
“I think it shows a lot,” Lamet said. “It shows that there's confidence in me, especially in me coming from surgery and being able to throw right around 100 pitches. It says a lot. I'm glad I was able to make the most of that opportunity.”
In that context, Tuesday ranked among the best of Lamet’s 27 career starts -- only once before had he thrown seven scoreless innings -- and, the Padres hope, a sign for the potential of what lies in 2020 and beyond. Green said that at least three times Lamet was a pitch or two away from prompting him to warm up his relief corps, but Lamet navigated his way out of jams in ways that have largely evaded him during his somewhat topsy-turvy return.
In both the second and third, Lamet led off the inning with a walk, only to come back and get out of the frame unscathed while not allowing a baserunner beyond second. He punched out the top of the order to strike out the side in the third after making a mid-inning adjustment and that, Green said, is when Lamet began to roll.
“The command wasn't there at the beginning, but it was fun to see him lock it in,” Green said. “That was vintage Lamet. The slider was real. He got some more swing and miss with the fastball. I was really encouraged by the outing, the way he pulled it all together, after probably the third inning. I thought it was really crisp after that.”
“At any point in any game, you're going to feel lost for a little bit,” Lamet said. “I think that happens, but luckily I was able to make that adjustment, and I think a lot of it was just focusing on stuff in between innings. Going out there and talking with the pitching coach, Darren Balsley, and telling myself, 'OK, you're lowering your arm a little bit. You're not really doing this or that.' And every inning, treating those warmup pitches and focusing there helped me a lot.”
These are the types of outings that have the Padres eyeing a significant step forward over the final seven weeks, but most notably, beyond.
The club will watch the workload of Lamet and curb Chris Paddack’s, whose 104 1/3 innings have exceeded his previous career high of 90 last season. But with a less conservative limit on each next season -- and with the likely arrival of No. 1 prospect Mackenzie Gore -- the Padres believe they have a staff to build around.
Lamet and Paddack will likely supplement some combination of Eric Lauer, Joey Lucchesi and Cal Quantrill, and Garrett Richards offers upside if he can return to the level of production as a top-end starter. There’s also the possibility they add depth through the trade or free-agent markets.
In the big and small picture, particularly with outings such as Lamet’s on Tuesday, much of San Diego’s pitching points to promise.
“He was kind of feeling his way through pitches early in the game and was kind of challenged by Darren to kind of cut it loose and trust it,” Green said. “I think he's going to be that type of pitcher. He pitches with real intent. He did that well. It was fun watching him flirt with a no-no there.”