Lauer solid for six, but Padres otherwise wobbly
SAN DIEGO -- The Padres spent the first half of the 2019 season as a franchise rejuvenated. Boasting a roster filled with exciting young talent, they started the year strong, then hovered around contention as the season ticked into June and July. They envisioned big things down the stretch.
They did not envision this.
The Friars floundered to start the second half, and they found themselves well out of the playoff picture by September. Now, they’re finishing the 2019 season with a whimper, having lost eight of nine.
On Friday night, the Padres put forth one of their sloppiest performances to date in a 9-0 loss to the D-backs at Petco Park. At the plate, in the field and on the mound, they made ugly mistakes. Perhaps the worst part: veterans Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer were two of the biggest culprits.
“We're certainly not playing the way we want to be playing right now,” said Hosmer, who committed two errors at first base. “We're making a lot of mistakes. ... We're better than what we're showing right now, and it starts with me.”
Hosmer dropped a throw from shortstop Luis Urías in the top of the second inning (on which Adam Jones would have been safe at first base, anyway). His glove appeared to rip, so he called to the dugout for a new one -- then had the same issue in the fourth inning, when he couldn’t corral an Eric Lauer pickoff throw. In the seventh, Hosmer booted a routine ground ball.
“It sucks, it honestly does,” Hosmer said. “I'm causing the pitcher to throw a lot more pitches. ... They're really just dumb mistakes that can easily be controlled.”
Speaking of which -- in the top of the eighth inning, it was Machado’s blunder that caused the game to spiral. The Padres trailed by two runs when Carson Kelly hit a grounder toward third base. Machado fielded the ball and turned toward Jones, who had already moved several feet toward the outfield grass.
Machado, presuming Jones was out of the baseline, didn’t attempt a tag. Jones trotted around Machado and cruised into third base. He was called safe.
“You play baseball for enough time, you realize certain things that you can do and that you can’t do,” Jones said. “I knew I was well within my rights. If he came and tagged me, then, obviously, I just keep going and run out of the baseline. … But he just stopped and looked at me, and I was like, ‘All right,’ and I just went around him.”
Indeed, rule 7.08(a) stipulates that “any runner is out when he runs more than three feet away from his baseline to avoid being tagged.”
“[Machado] didn't reach to tag, so that rule doesn't go into effect,” said Padres manager Andy Green. “I think he saw him go so wide out of the baseline, he assumed he was out.”
From there, the floodgates opened. Three San Diego relievers combined to allow seven runs in the frame. The Padres’ offense, meanwhile, was lifeless against Merrill Kelly, tallying just two hits over seven innings with nine strikeouts.
The frustration afterward was palpable -- quite the contrast from where things stood in the Padres’ clubhouse in mid-July.
“In the first half, it looked like a lot of guys were growing, making the right adjustments,” Hosmer said. “There are certain times where this league will beat you down. But you've got to find a way to bounce back.”
Thus far, the Padres haven’t.
Lauer makes his case
Lauer has spent two years as a rotation staple in San Diego. But with time winding down on his 2019 season, the Padres’ left-hander is pitching for his job in ’20.
In no uncertain terms, Lauer will find himself on the rotation bubble next spring. The Padres are expected to add a starting pitcher or two this offseason. Plus, Dinelson Lamet and Garrett Richards have returned from Tommy John surgery, and the arrival of top prospect MacKenzie Gore is on the horizon.
“In my mind, I'm going into Spring Training thinking it's my job to lose,” Lauer said Friday night after his penultimate start this season. “Somebody's going to have to beat me for it, and I'm just not going to let them beat me. ... My thought process going into this offseason is just: Don't let anybody beat you out for your spot. Because there's going to be a lot of competition. We've got a lot of great young guys.”
Lauer made a nice early case for his 2020 rotation spot. He surrendered two runs on just two hits, while striking out nine. His fastball velocity ticked up as high as 95-96 mph, and he recorded 19 swinging strikes with his heater.
On a night where seemingly everything else went wrong, Lauer was the bright spot.
“We know we're better than how we've been playing,” he said afterward. “We have all the talent in the world, and it's just a frustrating time right now, having things go the way they've gone. It's not who we think we are.”