WASHINGTON -- A small physical adjustment led to a major confidence boost for Eric Lauer, and the result was the best start of his young career. Lauer tossed six strong innings to bounce back from consecutive subpar efforts to keep the Padres in a nip-and-tuck affair with the Nationals on
WASHINGTON -- A small physical adjustment led to a major confidence boost for Eric Lauer, and the result was the best start of his young career. Lauer tossed six strong innings to bounce back from consecutive subpar efforts to keep the Padres in a nip-and-tuck affair with the Nationals on Tuesday night.
Even though San Diego dropped a 2-1 decision in the ninth inning at Nationals Park, the left-hander's effort is something for the team and the pitcher on which to build.
"I thought, hands down, it was his best outing," Padres manager Andy Green said. "I was really encouraged. I thought he got ahead well, the mix was good, located his fastball better and had a little bit more zip to it than he's had when he had to reach back and reach for more. It's good to see that. Overall, a very encouraging outing and he did absolutely everything he could to help us win a baseball game."
After laboring through his previous two starts -- giving up 10 runs on 13 hits in seven innings combined -- Lauer tinkered with his mechanics and was pleased with the results.
"I think from the get-go, making those physical changes -- the slight adjustment to my front side -- allowed me to settle in a little better and be confident behind every pitch," Lauer said. "Execution-wise, I think it helped too, and that only played up the confidence factor."
Lauer matched a career high in both innings pitched (six) and strikeouts (seven), and stayed out of trouble by getting ahead of hitters. Lauer posted nine 0-2 counts against the Nationals.
"It definitely helps being ahead of batters and being more on the attack than on the defense," he said.
Lauer made just one mistake -- a first-pitch slider to Bryce Harper in the fifth, who clubbed it to straightaway center to tie the score at 1.
"I didn't think he'd be looking for it, but apparently he was, and he was ready to hit it and he hit it a long way," Lauer said.
Lauer turned it over to the bullpen, and after solid innings from Craig Stammen and Kirby Yates in the seventh and eighth, respectively, Michael A. Taylor's double to deep center off Matt Strahm in the ninth scored Juan Soto -- who reached base in all four of his plate appearances -- to send the Padres to a tough loss.
Green was disappointed Strahm didn't attack Taylor, who had struck out twice against Lauer and seemed overmatched by fastballs, instead of opting for a changeup.
"Wrong pitch," Green said. "He shook the catcher three times to get to that pitch. [Taylor] hasn't been on a fastball all day. Lauer blew fastballs by him and Strahm has more fastball than that. Went to the changeup and it gave [Taylor] an opportunity to win a baseball game. I like the fact that [Lauer] has conviction in one of his pitches, but he gave the hitter a chance there."
San Diego is 6-6 in one-run games.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Franchy goes deep:Franchy Cordero continued to display his prodigious power, connecting in the fourth inning on another monster home run, this time a blast to the second deck in right-center that left the yard at 111.6 mph and was projected to travel 449 feet, according to Statcast™.
Cordero's seventh home run of the season was his first since April 28 and provided the Padres with their only run. Cordero has hit four homers that have traveled more than 440 feet, leading the Majors in that category.
"It's a ton of power," Green said. "And when he gets a baseball, he really gets it."
Spangenberg's tough hop: With no outs and a runner on first in the ninth, Nationals second baseman Wilmer Difo hit a sharp grounder to Cory Spangenberg at third base that was potentially hard enough for the Padres to turn a double play.
But the ball took a funny hop, and Spangenberg couldn't field it cleanly. He was able to recover enough to throw Difo out, but Soto advanced to second and would score when the next batter, Taylor, connected for the game-winning double.
"That last one, obviously it took a hop on him and came up and got him in the chest," Green said. "You'd love it if he could flip the glove over and turn a double play right there, but he kept it in front and got us an out. In that situation, you're still in good shape. We still had plenty of opportunity to hang on and play another inning."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
In the second inning, Lauer showed off his devastating pickoff move again, nabbing Soto with ease on a quick throw to first, erasing the runner after a walk. Lauer has three pickoffs on the season, and the Padres lead the Majors in that category with eight.
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
In the sixth inning, Jose Pirela tried to score from second base on a single from Franmil Reyes, but Taylor unleashed a rocket from center field, measured at 98.8 mph by Statcast™, right to catcher Pedro Severino, who applied the tag. The initial call on the field ruled Pirela safe at the plate, but the Nationals challenged.
The call on the field was overturned and Pirela was ruled out, keeping the game tied and showing off another aspect of Taylor's game.
"He knew what he had to do," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "He knew it was a big moment. He came, gathered himself, went through the ball and made a perfect throw…. For a second there I thought, 'well if we need someone to pitch, it might be Michael'."
Tyson Ross (3-3, 3.15 ERA) takes the hill Wednesday in a 1:05 PT start as the Padres finish the series against Washington. Ross faced the Nationals on May 7 and took the loss after giving up five runs in six innings. The Nationals had not announced their starter after rainouts last week shook up their rotation.
Elliott Smith is a contributor to MLB.com based in Washington.