LOS ANGELES -- The Padres wanted Eric Lauer on this stage. So much so, they shuffled their rotation with the sole purpose of giving the rookie left-hander a September start in Dodger Stadium, with Los Angeles in the midst of a pennant race.Lauer lived up to the moment.Hunter Renfroe and
LOS ANGELES -- The Padres wanted Eric Lauer on this stage. So much so, they shuffled their rotation with the sole purpose of giving the rookie left-hander a September start in Dodger Stadium, with Los Angeles in the midst of a pennant race.
Lauer lived up to the moment.
Hunter Renfroe and Freddy Galvis homered, and Lauer was sharp for five innings, as the Padres opened their series in Los Angeles with a 5-3 victory on Friday night. The 23-year-old southpaw allowed one run while striking out five. Every time the Dodgers threatened, Lauer had an answer.
"A big part of it is acknowledging it and realizing: This is the spot, man, this is what I've worked for my whole life, to be in moments like this," Lauer said. "Now it's time to perform."
In the bottom of the fifth, Lauer put two men aboard, as his pitch count ran into the 90s. After Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner worked a two-out walk, manager Andy Green ambled from the top step of the dugout toward the mound.
Lauer noticed in the way Green was walking that this wouldn't be an immediate call to the bullpen. Green wanted to take the temperature of the situation.
"I put the ball in my glove," Lauer said. "I wasn't going to give it to him."
The truth is, Green never wanted to take it. And sure enough, Lauer blew a 1-2 fastball past Manny Machado, ending the threat and silencing the Dodger Stadium crowd.
"His composure is probably one of his greatest assets," Green said. "It's always there."
In particular, Lauer's dominance of the Dodgers has been a pleasant surprise for the Padres. He's made three starts against the five-time defending NL West champs this season, and he owns a 0.92 ERA.
"I don't know, he's brought his best against us," said Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts. "A couple guys had good swings, but I just think collectively we can't figure him out."
Lauer fell behind in the third when Enrique Hernandez took him deep, but the Padres' offense responded immediately. Franmil Reyes opened the fourth with a single, extending his hitting streak to 12 games -- the longest by a Padre this season.
Two batters later Renfroe launched his 24th homer of the year into the left-field seats. Galvis tacked on a solo shot in the seventh and sparked a two-run rally with a leadoff single in the ninth. Over the past week, Galvis is 12-for-24 with a pair of homers and four doubles.
William Myers delivered the decisive blow, an opposite-field two-run double that gave the Padres a three-run lead in the ninth. With the loss, the Dodgers' edge over Colorado in the National League West race sits at just 1 1/2 games.
"We want to be the spoilers for them, just to do it," Lauer said. "Just because it's them. It's definitely cool getting a win in that environment."
YATES AT THE PLATE
Padres closer Kirby Yates recorded a huge strikeout to end the eighth, blowing a fastball by Cody Bellinger with the tying and go-ahead runs on base. In the ninth, he nailed down his 10th save by striking out Joc Pederson.
And yet, Yates' exploits on the mound paled in comparison to his adventures at the plate.
The Padres double-switched Yates into the game in the bottom of the eighth, and his place in the order came up after an intentional walk to Renfroe loaded the bases. Following the automatic free pass, Yates was nowhere near ready to bat and had to scramble to get into the box.
"It was a fire drill," Yates said. "I walked up to the plate, took a hack and put it in play."
Yates sent a grounder between shortstop and third, and for a moment his first-career hit seemed within reach. But Dodgers shortstop Machado made a brilliant play, throwing off-balance from the hole and beating Yates by half a step.
As Yates approached first base, his helmet came flying off, and he tripped over it, falling on his face beyond the bag. A smiling Yates quickly sprung to his feet and dusted himself off.
"As a relief pitcher, you don't ever really get a chance to get an at-bat," Yates said. "You sniff a hit in the ninth inning -- it took me back to the glory days."
RENFROE ON A ROLL
Renfroe entered the 2018 season with a stigma: He absolutely raked against left-handers. But match him up with a righty, and it was game over.
That's changed in a big way. Of all the progress Renfroe has made this year, none is more noteworthy than his work against right-handed pitching.
In the top of the fourth inning, Renfroe smashed a 3-2 curveball from Dodgers righty Thomas Stripling into the left-field seats. It was the 17th of his 24 homers to come against a right-hander this season. His .810 OPS against righties is 14 points better than his mark against lefties.
"One thing I always said: I've always hit righties my whole entire life," Renfroe said. "Last year got to the point where I couldn't figure it out. But this year I've made some strides, figured out a two-strike approach that's really worked for me. It's kind of all coming together right now. I'll just keep getting better."
HE SAID IT
"He asked how I was feeling, if I was still strong. I said, 'Heck yeah, I'm still strong.'" -- Lauer, on his fifth-inning conversation with Green on the mound
Jacob Nix is eyeing a strong finish to his rookie campaign, and he'll face the Dodgers Saturday night at 6:10 p.m. PT in what is scheduled to be his penultimate start of the season. Nix could use an uptick in strikeouts, but he's been able to induce plenty of weak contact since his August callup. The Dodgers counter Nix with veteran left-hander Rich Hill, who, at 38, is 16 years Nix's senior.
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.